That was Lawrence: The rock

Stephen Nordin

I am certainly not the first Lawrentian writer to put ink to paper in pursuit of that campus enigma-“The Rock.”

A. Arthur Bennett of the Class of 1895 discovered the four-ton granite boulder while on a field trip with Professor D.P. Nicholson outside the town of New London, Wisconsin. While that locale is now known for a pro-Hibernian faction renaming the town “New Dublin” around St. Patrick’s Day, its surroundings feature a variety of geological oddities.

According to Bennett, they found this 7,900 pound “pebble” on the side of the road and “several of the class thought it would be a fine memorial of the occasion if it could be transferred to the campus.”

After finding a horse and wagon, the students transferred the boulder to a flatcar and took advantage of the impressive rail system in the Fox Valley to bring it to campus.

What began as a field trip souvenir eventually became the Class Gift from those who graduated in 1895, much to the approval of the student body. The July 2, 1895, issue of The Lawrentian reported that “the class day exercises were held about a massive granite boulder which the graduating class had appropriately placed upon the university campus and which bears the inscription, ‘Class of ’95’.”

[Author note: Seniors-Please contact Senior Class President Andrew Kraemer or, if feeling brave, embattled Senior Class Vice-President Tony Darling to give an actual gift of money. I doubt they would appreciate a stone, whatever its historical significance.]

During one of their final quizzes with “Doc Sammy”-Dr. Samuel Plantz-the graduating seniors asked if they would receive their degrees. Plantz replied: “Oh, your degree is out on your stone.” Upon examination, the Seniors were surprised to discover that the inscription was altered with clay and paint to read “Asses of ’95.”

The seniors also guarded the Rock throughout the night before Class Day “lest some festive ’96er come along and carry the pebble off and throw it into the river.”

After the rock was vandalized repeatedly with paint and carvings by students of rival colleges Carroll and Ripon, the administration decided to dump the Rock into the Fox behind Ormsby Hall, nearby the tennis courts on May 11, 1939. However, the tradition-minded student body hauled it back up again during the night.

The boulder disappeared again on October 8, 1946 with a sign asserting that the Rock was “deported to Lower Slobbovia” appearing in its place. The men of Beta Theta Pi or Sigma Phi Epsilon were widely considered to be the culprits.

By the 1950s, the Rock had a paper-mâché doppelganger precariously placed on the science hall by tipsy Phi Taus Richard Devine, James Ryan and Richard Holleran. It served as a headstone for beloved campus cocker spaniel Maxie, who lived at Lawrence and attended classes from 1942 to 1952. It was thrown into the Fox in 1955 and buried behind Brokaw in 1963.

Like all valuable resources, the Rock fostered competition between groups for possession rights. When news of the burial behind Brokaw spread around campus in 1963, a group of 50 freshmen exhumed it, brought it to Plantz, and defended it with wastepaper baskets filled with water. A group of these students secretly buried the rock again, which was covered with a parking lot.

Although some students tried to bring a pretender, “Rock II,” to campus, the true boulder was revealed in 1983 at the 15th Reunion of the Class of 1967. President Richard Warch, in between bites of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, proclaimed “What a great day for Lawrence University.”

However, a confrontation between Delta Tau Delta and Phi Delta Theta in 1998 marked the last days of the Rock. The Delts hired earth-moving equipment to move the boulder to their lawn, and the Phi Delts stood in the way of the machinery. As the driver revved his engine, our very own Nancy Truesdell intervened as the voice of reason before anyone was injured and saw the Rock moved to the lawn in front of Sampson House.

However, by the next day, it was on the lawn outside of the Delt House. In 1999, it vanished, seemingly for good. Some speculated that the Administration hid the Rock to prevent the sort of dangerous shenanigans seen in 1998. Some thought a rival college or fraternity stole it. In any case, it is nowhere to be found, with no information forthcoming.

I urge any alumni with relevant information concerning the whereabouts of the campus artifact to contact this publication.

I, and the rest of the Asses of ’13, would certainly appreciate it.