Seniors may have a vague memory from their freshman year of The Rock, but for the rest of the student body this Lawrence tradition is all but unknown. If mention of The Rock leaves you scratching your head in confusion, read on and learn about one of the longest running and most mysterious traditions of Lawrence University.
The Rock was originally a souvenir from an 1895 student field trip to Mosquito Hill.
The group of students was out near New London on a geology trip when a senior noticed a large granite boulder that would later become an important part of Lawrence’s Homecoming traditions. It was so heavy the group had to arrange to have it carried back to campus on a railroad flat car. To immortalize the achievement they had it engraved with “Class of ’95.” They placed it in front of the Stephenson Hall of Science, and there it sat, but not for long.
Years later, The Rock provided a challenge to roguish students. Traditionally, The Rock was secretly transported by night all around campus, to be found the next morning painted some strange color or pattern or sporting an advertisement for some campus activity.
Groups of students with borrowed tow trucks or ambitions of rolling the heavy rock around campus could be found roaming the paths late at night. Unsuspecting students could often look out their windows the next morning to find a boulder on the front lawn of their hall.
As the years went by, Students conceived of newer and more creative plots for The Rock. In 1957, surprised students reported seeing The Rock precariously balanced on the roof of Stephenson hall. Rumors flew around campus as students tried to figure how the enormous rock had made it to the top of the building until someone investigated and found that it was a fake boulder, constructed of papier-mch. But that was only the start of the pranks.
In 1964, residents of Plantz Hall decided on a plan to keep The Rock for good. They buried it in a secret spot behind Plantz Hall. After the fact they flaunted it to the campus, making up sweatshirts reading “The Rock: We Saw. We Took. We Kept.” And there The Rock stayed for many years until, in 1983, during the class of 1967’s 15th reunion, it was exhumed. The Alumni returned to resume the tradition, sporting new sweatshirts, this time printed with the phrase “The Rock: We Saw. We Took. We Kept. We Returned.” They hired a crane to lift The Rock out of the hole.
Soon after its return to campus the tradition resumed, but it changed slightly. This time, adopted by the fraternities on campus, it became more of an annual competition to see who got to keep it for the year. Each year before homecoming the frats would scramble to see who had possession of it on the morning of the homecoming game. The winners got to keep boulder as their own for the year.
The competition became fairly heated, building more and more until the Phi Delta Theta fraternity decided to cement The Rock in front of their hall. Groups on campus petitioned for its removal and were finally approved but soon after its removal it once again disappeared.
Most are confused about the events surrounding its disappearance. During Homecoming 1999 several attempts were made to keep the rock, but late one night it vanished.
No group will take responsibility for its disappearance. Some believe that it was hidden and will one day quietly reemerge in the quad to be added back into the list of Lawrence traditions.
As the memory of this historic tradition fades from campus, one can’t help but wish that the day of return would come in time for the current group of students to be a part of this defining Lawrence tradition.