Perhaps you read this article about strange college traditions. That’s my alma mater coming in at number five. Centre College in Danville. You might’ve heard of Centre from one of the past vice-presidential debates. Or perhaps a story from a higher-education publication about how much money alums give every year.
There’s no denying the top-notch education Centre offers. But the catalog failed to mention all the campus traditions that involve degrees of nudity.
The tradition mentioned in the article above concerns this sculpture.
This is The Flame. It sits in front of the library on campus. The tradition is, you drop your clothes on the college seal, which is embedded in the sidewalk across the street in front of the administration building, then run around the Flame, preferably before campus security can catch you. (The article says three times but I don’t think we ever did that three times part…maybe the new generations of Colonels have been upping the ante?)
Why? It’s a bonding activity. It’s exhilarating. It’s a little naughty but it’s harmless.
Typically, people ran the Flame in celebration. Finals are finished! Or you came off three hours of strike and two hours of cast party after a Drama Centre show. Or it’s Tuesday. I saw a guy ride the Flame – he circled three times on a bicycle. In the rain.
I’ll address the elephant in the blog now. Yes. The sculpture DOES look like down-swimming reproductive proteins.
The answer is yes, I ran the Flame. More than once. More than once AND sober. Once I ran it in the middle of February with four inches of snow on the ground.
Another quirky tradition at Centre is serenading the president. The senior women stand on the president’s lawn in their bath towels and sing the alma mater (what’s underneath the towel is up to the singer).
My senior year, my work study job was in the president’s office. I mostly did calligraphy for him. I addressed all the Christmas cards, invitations to special lunches, and so forth. I also did filing and some phone calls, etc.
We had an interim president that year, who was also a professor.
The night of the planned serenade, we senior ladies gathered – how many? Less than 200 but more than 50. Campus security actually stopped traffic for us to cross the street to the presidential residence and we belted out “Centre Dear.”
Centre dear we offer thee love profound and praises free
After an amused round of applause from Acting President and Wife, we went back to campus where we kind of went bananas. First we ran the Flame THEN went frolicking in the fountain in front of the arts complex. Thank goodness we had bath towels! Amirite?
The next day at work, the president stopped by my desk. In his trademark gravelly voice he said, “Writing Spider, where did you ladies go after you left my house last night?”
Our intern, a Centre grad herself, happened to be walking by at the moment and without breaking stride said, “They jumped in the fountain and ran around naked on campus all night.”
I shrugged and grinned sheepishly.
He just said, “Ah. All right.” Then proceeded into his office and that was that.
Good times, my friends. Good times.
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