1960s: Dress Codes, Capping and Mixers
Student life in the 1960s was quite different from student life today. Dr. Annette Muckerheide, SC, ’63 and her fellow students wore skirts, nylons, bobbie socks and saddle shoes. “Dressed up” meant earrings and heels, she says. Study time was from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. “A bell rang at 9 p.m. and many of us rushed to the SOC (the social center, an area on the ground floor of Seton Center that is currently the commuter lounge and computer lab area) to play bridge and smoke,” Muckerheide says. Students had to ask for “date permission” from the Dean of Students, who waited for their return at curfew.
Tradition was a concept instilled in freshman early. “Every fall, new incoming freshmen were ‘capped’ in a special ceremony in which they individually received their caps and gowns,” Muckerheide says. These served as a college uniform – students wore them to Sunday Mass and on special occasions. “Some of us attended Sunday Mass still in our PJs, camouflaged by the voluminous black gown!” Muckerheide says.
Other favorite traditions included Christmas caroling, in which seniors would walk out onto Seton Hall’s balcony—attached to what is now the first floor offices in Seton Center—carrying candles and serenading students below (before it was a parking lot). There also was the Sophomore Revue, a musical put on by the sophomore class, and Sunday night mixers with men from Xavier and University of Cincinnati.
“I loved those days,” says Muckerheide, who eventually returned to the Mount as a faculty member for 34 years until her recent retirement.
1970s: A Decade of Change
Ten years later, Patricia Schwaiger Willig ’73, current director of the Mount’s Wellness Center, began to see change. “First semester of my first year [as a student], we were obliged to wear skirts and dresses to class, but that changed in second semester—the beginnings of progress and women’s liberation,” Willig says. Three-hour open visitation on Sundays was introduced her senior year—students could visit with members of the opposite sex in their rooms, although they were strictly monitored.
There were still the mixers held at the armory at Xavier University, and Willig says many of her friends met their future husbands that way. On warm days Willig and her friends loved to lie in the sun on ‘Seton Beach’ – the concrete slab and grassy area behind the pool (now the wrestling room in the “old gym” building) with aluminum foil reflectors and baby oil to maximize their tans.
The SOC was still the place to be to smoke and play cards, although there was a jukebox – a gift from one of the senior classes. “There were many weekend nights we gathered in the rooms of students who played guitars and sang folk songs and old Girl Scout songs and Beatles songs. The Vietnam War was going on and many of us were politically active in our protest against the war,” Willig says.
Students also would sing “Mount St. Joe Girls,” which dated back to when the college was at the Motherhouse, says Lisa Hinger-Odenbeck ’80, current director of the Mount’s development and campaign planning. “Somewhere along the way – I think in the 1970s – we adopted The Beach Boys’ ‘California Girls,’ replacing the words of the song to ‘I wish they all could be Mount St. Joseph girls …’”
Willig’s favorite traditions included the Father/Daughter Dance in the fall and the Spring Formal. And almost everyone participated in the Sophomore Revue (see photos of the 1971 Sophomore Revue on page 32). “It was a great unifying event for our class and solidified a class identity for all of us, which contributed to school spirit on a larger level,” Willig says.
In the early 1970s, seniors still caroled at Christmas. Students decorated Seton lobby and floor lounges, and students, faculty and staff attended a formal holiday dinner in the dining room.
Several years later, decorating for Christmas became an event known as Senior Christmas, with senior class committees creating a theme, recalls Jeanine Lesko Derler ’77. Underclassmen were awakened in the middle of the night to seniors running down the halls, knocking on doors and throwing candy into dorm rooms. Then everyone was then led to the decorated Seton lobby while still in their pajamas.
Another favorite meeting place was a small, on-campus pub called The Bacchus Room. “The following words sum up the Bacchus Room for me: raisin bagels with butter and cream cheese, beer [and] singing at the top of our lungs Billy Joel’s ‘Only The Good Die Young,’” says Mirjana Jerkic Zovkic ’82. The beer of choice was Little Kings, which students nicknamed “Little Killers.” Back then, the drinking age was 18 in Ohio. It was raised to 19 in 1984 and went to age 21 in 1987. Eventually the Bacchus Room became the current Office of Admission.
The Mount’s first social sorority was created in 1976 – Delhi Si Mounti. “We even had t-shirts printed – I still have mine,” Hinger-Odenbeck says. “Since we did not have any sororities on campus, we made up our own for fun.” Over the years, the group evolved into a service sorority but ended in the 1990s.
Hinger-Odenbeck also recalls a private wine and cheese reception for seniors in the president’s lounge. The junior class planned “Senior Send-off,” a week of special events, dinners and serenades, capped off with a junior/senior formal dance, off campus.
1980s: Tub Toss, Seton Beach and Senior Christmas
“One tradition that I will remember forever is Tub Toss,” says Jeannette N. Bryson, who, although not an alum, has worked at the Mount since 1987. Students would put a bathtub in the middle of the intersection of Delhi and Neeb roads and approach drivers with buckets, asking for donations to a local charity. The money in the buckets was then tossed into the bathtub.
By the 1980s, Senior Christmas remained very popular. The class of 1988’s theme was Precious Christmas Moments, playing off the then-popular Precious Moments figurines. “We all made wall hangings of ourselves as a Precious Moment,” Tanya Fasnacht Jolliffee ’88 says. It remained a surprise for freshman, including the middle-of-the-night wake-up call, although updates to the tradition included Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming To Town” blaring through speakers, Jolliffe says.
The Christmas Mass and dinner was also well attended, and the programming council often provided entertainment (a concert or party) after, Bryson says.
2000s: Student Life Today
No longer capped (but still heartily welcomed) today’s incoming freshmen are invited to attend a Welcome Weekend boat ride on a large double-decker paddleboat with food and dancing on the Ohio River. “The boat ride is a great experience for incoming students to socialize and meet new people,” says Bobby Sagers, a junior, defensive back on the football team, orientation leader and member of Excel Crew. “Everyone is a little nervous starting out,” Sagers said. He added the activity makes new students feel comfortable and it is a lot of fun.
The Homecoming Pep Rally is well loved. The October 2013 event included a bonfire, pizza and corn hole. Rod Huber, the Lions’ head coach, emceed a recognition ceremony for all fall athletes, says Erin Fontaine, a junior and vice president of the Campus Activities Board (CAB).
“I think Homecoming really encourages spirit,” says Tristan Chaput, a junior and president of CAB. Weeklong events include a Student Government Association-sponsored office and department decorating contest, RA staff-hosted bingo and an SGA homecoming t-shirt sale, followed up with the pep rally, tailgating and home football game. “There is so much happening on campus that everybody is active and buzzing with anticipation of the next event,” Chaput says.
On the heels of homecoming is Community Trick-or-Treat, which includes trick-or-treating in the residence halls and activities in the dining center. “I think this event really encompasses the school’s mission in so many ways,” Chaput says. This year about 4,000 attended. “When so many people are coming to campus for an event that is truly put on by the entire college … it is hard not to be proud of where you attend.”
Although Senior Christmas is no longer a tradition, each year the baseball team decorates the Motherhouse and there is a Christmas prayer service and dinner. “Faculty and staff attend alongside students, which serves to remind me how lucky I am to be at a school where everyone can come together and celebrate Christmas,” says Kayla Thieman, a sophomore, SGA senator and CAB’s traditional events co-chair.
Bingo, which is played as “M-O-U-N-T,” is another loved tradition Thieman enjoys, along with many of her classmates.
And although there are no longer mixers at Xavier’s armory, the spring formal is a much-anticipated event, Fontaine says. The night of dancing and fun, which has recently been hosted at the Newport Aquarium, brings many Mount students together and has sold out the past two years.
The Importance of Tradition
“Just as traditions are important in families, traditions are important in schools,” Fontaine says. “Tradition is something that forms a school’s identity. People can look back in 10, 50, 100 years and see where a school comes from by looking at tradition.”
With tradition comes school pride. “Without it, the Mount would be just another college,” says Jacob Stentz, ’13, an RA and current graduate student in the nursing program. It’s pride students and alumni feel when seeing defensive back Sagers carry the MSJ flag, leading his football team on the field for every home game—a tradition Sagers helped create and one he hopes the Mount will continue.
For Thieman, football games and service opportunities encourage the most school spirit. Thieman says it’s inspiring to see current students, alumni and the community come together to show their support. Those employed at the Mount are eager to show their support, too. In May 2013, more than 60 Mount faculty and staff took part in multiple community development projects. “When students, faculty and staff can come together for a shared purpose, they are reminded of their common interest in helping people,” Thieman says.
Strong traditions also provide a thread that connects the past, present and future, says Sarah Lierman, a junior, SGA senator, orientation leader and the fourth generation of her family to attend the Mount. She says college should be more than a place to study. She believes school spirit and Mount traditions build bridges between current students and alumni.
Beth Weil ’83 was a commuter – then called a “day-hop” – but still involved in student activities. “The fondest memory I have of a Mount tradition was Sophomore Revue,” Weil says. “It was long hours, late nights and a lot of fun.” Her mother, Betty Wellman Gibbs ’46, was a member of the first class to put on a revue—it was an experience they shared, a generation apart. Mountie (a term Mount students formerly used to describe one another) spirit, as a commuter, was mostly about the relationships she had with fellow students and faculty, Weil says.
Today, Katie Jauch, a senior, has played on the women’s soccer team all four years, is a senator in the SGA, a peer tutor, and a member of Mount Education Association, Kappa Delta Pi, Alpha Chi and Chi Alpha Sigma. She’s also a commuter, and one of her favorite Mount traditions is Commuter Breakfast, held once each semester. Sponsored by CAB, students can pick up granola bars, coffee, donuts and orange juice in the Theatre Lobby, on their way to classes.
Coordinating student life with a commute has also worked well for Bobby Sagers, the junior football defensive back. Although he’s a resident during the fall semester, he commutes each spring. “The Mount has made it easy to be a part of campus/life activities by promoting themselves very well,” Sagers says.
Still, there’s room for improvement. “Since I started in January 2013 I have thought of the commuters as an underserved population that deserve programming tailored to their needs,” says Stephen Craig, the Mount’s new coordinator of campus activities and leadership. He and new Dean of Students Janet Cox, are starting a commuter group. “I’d like the commuter students to have a forum to meet other commuters, support each other and feel more connected to the campus,” Cox says. “I would like to be sure they feel at home here during, after and between classes. The Mount has a lot to offer in terms of outside the classroom activities.”
Alumna Patricia Schwaiger Willig says she sometimes misses the school spirit she felt when she was an undergraduate, but believes it’s being reinvented. “I believe that a Mount student is a special student indeed, and, regardless of change over the years, the commitment to serving the whole person and providing a student with the necessary support needed to be successful has not changed one bit,” Willig says. “While I fondly reminisce about the ‘old days,’ I am so aware that we are all called to grow and change to keep in pace with a highly competitive and technological world. I do believe that the Mount is up to the challenge.”
Enter Stephen Craig who is working to recreate some of the Mount’s past successful traditions. Future plans include expanding the number of student groups on campus, including looking into the feasibility of Greek Life. Come to SpringFest May 2, he says. “We will be having some activities there that have never been done on this campus.” Past activities have included well-known musicians and Cincinnati Circus Company.
Cox joined the Mount in July. Her plans include a new game room, which opened in March (read more on page 2), and recently she started a Tuesday and Saturday student shuttle, offering easier access to neighboring communities. “I’d also like to see students thrive in their leadership pursuits and encourage clubs to provide all-campus events to contribute to campus life,” she says.
Warren Grove, coordinator of Residence Life, is another newcomer with lots of plans, including a Health and Natural Sciences Learning Community and a Community Service Living Area, both to debut in fall 2014. Grove is also actively working with RAs on social and educational residence hall programming. Programs planned this semester will provide learning opportunities that engage students in meaningful conversations, he says. In late January, RAs took students to downtown Cincinnati’s Fountain Square to ice skate and show them the cultural, social and fun opportunities available. The trip let RAs have fun with students while helping to remove a phobia that some students may have about exploring downtown.
Armed with insightful and inspiring ideas, these Mount newcomers’ plans will create an even more engaged student experience, both inside the classroom and out. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the Mount.
Kara Gebhart Uhl is a freelance editor, writer and blogger based in Fort Thomas, Ky.