University Students: Active, Energetic, and Involved
supplement their classroom experiences, Washington University students
have always been involved with co-curricular activities. Take a
glimpse at how these activities have changed, or stayed the same,
over the years.
University has developed over the past 150 years from a streetcar
college into an international university, one thing has remained
constant in this process of growth and change: the involvement of
students in activities outside of the classroom. Up until the 1940s,
students primarily focused on literary, dramatic, and athletic activities.
Now they are also involved in community service, cultural groups,
and special interest groups.
The Hatchet, the student yearbook, began publishing in
1902; above is the 1907 staff.
Football is one of 18 men's and women's varsity sports available
at Washington University; intramural sports are popular, too.
A flowering of student activities accompanied
the move of Washington University from its original location in
downtown St. Louis to the Hilltop Campus in 1905. Before the move,
not many groups were active, though the Irving Union, a debate club
and literary group that published the forerunner to Student Life,
and the Ugly Club, an early men's social group, left their mark
on student involvement. The football team, called the Purities for
their straight-laced academic code, played a one-game schedule from
1890 to 1905.
Thurtene has evolved from an esoteric society of which virtually
nothing was known early in the 20th century to a highly visible
coed campus organization. Each spring, the honorary sponsors
Thurtene Carnival, and proceeds go to an area charity.
On the new campus, the student community realized
a sharp increase in literary, dramatic, and athletic opportunities.
Thyrsus, a student-coordinated theatrical troupe, regularly performed
classics of Western literature. Famous alumni of the group include
the late Fannie Hurst, A.B. '09, writer; the late Mary Wickes, A.B.
'30, actress; and A.E. Hotchner, A.B. '40, J.D. '40, playwright.
Students established the Eliot Review, a publication of students'
writings, and the Hatchet, the school yearbook. Honoraries
such as Obelisk, Lock & Chain, Thurtene, and Pralma were formed.
Greek life began to flourish as students founded new fraternities
and sororities during this period, which include the still active
Pi Beta Phi, Beta Theta Pi, Kappa Sigma, Sigma Nu, and Sigma Chi.
Athletics focused on men's football (now called the Pikers and the
first squad to play at Francis Field), basketball, track, and baseball.
Women's club sports began later around 1909.
Students ride a "Beat 'Em, Bust 'Em Bears" float during the
football Homecoming parade.
One of the golden periods of sports occurred
in the 1920s and 1930s prior to World War II. The Washington University
Bears' swim team achieved greatness along with the men's tennis
and basketball teams. The varsity tennis team won the 1930 Missouri
Valley Championship but was defeated at the National Intercollegiate
Tennis Meet. In 1934, men's basketball won 10 of its 18 games and
defended the city championship title. Starting in 1907 and continuing
for nearly four decades, the men's football team played in the Missouri
Valley Conference (MVC) against schools such as Missouri, Kansas,
Nebraska, and Iowa.
Students enjoy dancing at the Association of Black Students
When many students left to serve their government
as soldiers and nurses during World War II, many activities were
curtailed, particularly student participation in Greek life and
athletics. Some activities were canceled for the duration of the
war. In 1943, Eliot Review discontinued publication; Thurtene Carnival
and Spring Formals were not held; and Student Senate was disbanded.
After the war, Chancellor Arthur Holly Compton made the decision
that academics were the primary focus of the growing University.
Athletics withdrew from the MVC, and the University adopted a new
athletic policy that prohibited the awarding of scholarships on
the basis of athletic ability alone.
One element of the week-long celebration of the Chinese New
Year is the variety show
Activities returned in full force in the 1950s,
giving new energy to preprofessional organizations, Greek life,
and athletics. The Bearskin Follies, which began during this period,
were campus dramatic favorites. Sororities and fraternities performed
original skits in a musical revue that drew crowds each spring.
social ideologies and civil rights movements of the 1960s ended
many traditional activities on campus and simultaneously founded
new ones. The 1969 Hatchet was published as a "Book in a
Bag," consisting of the usual collection of student portraits, as
well as a Washington University-specific Time magazine and
posters meant to provoke thought. Both Greek life and the campus
literary publications suffered from lack of student involvement,
while environmental action, political, and special interest groups
began to draw attention, such as Cosmopolitan International, which
worked toward creating understanding between people of diverse countries.
1905 The baseball team
first trained in its new, splendidly equipped gymnasium and
on its new athletic field.
During the early '70s, Washington University
struggled to overcome the effects of accumulated debt, decreased
federal funding, and a lessened endowment. Due to the budget problems,
basketball was canceled for a period and other activities became
dormant. Activism was still important to students, highlighted by
Vietnam War protests and active dialogue regarding the military
presence on campus in the form of the ROTC. Student Council became
Student Union, a significant name change that reflected the increased
diversity of interests and ethnicities of the University student
Washington University students originated the St. Louis Area
Dance Marathon to raise funds for the Children's Miracle Network.
In 2002, Dance Marathon raised nearly $60,000 for the charity.
Student activities revived in the 1980s. A
cappella groups such as the all-male Pikers and all-female Greenleafs
began performing, and the co-ed Mosaic Whispers and Amateurs soon
followed. Men's basketball was brought back in 1981; an extensive
modernization and renovation of the Athletic Complex was completed
in 1985; and Washington University helped found the University Athletic
Association (UAA) in 1986, increasing the participation in student
Fannie Hurst (left), Class of 1909, performed in many Thyrsus
productions while a student.
Throughout the 1990s, new student groups were
added to the activity list, many focusing on special interests and
activism such as the Emergency Service Team, a student-run medical
response team; WashIapac, a pro-Israel group; and Alternative Spring
Break, which coordinates service opportunities during break. Chimes
and Thurtene, the junior honoraries, became coed in 1991, reflecting
the changing opinions of the student body and administration regarding
social justice policies.
games are always a campus favorite.
Washington University students can choose from approximately 200
student organizations, including sororities and fraternities, preprofessional
organizations, sports clubs, programming boards, special interest
groups, varsity athletics, and student governments. Service to the
surrounding St. Louis community has gained importance with programs
such as Service First, which introduces freshmen to community outreach
possibilities; Each One, Teach One, a volunteer tutoring program
in the St. Louis school district; Into the Streets, a national program
with volunteers helping organizations that focus on AIDS, children,
hunger, the environment, and other issues; and Dance Marathon, an
annual event of 12 hours of nonstop dancing, with proceeds benefiting
the Children's Miracle Network. One of the University's biggest
events, Thurtene Carnivalthe nation's oldest student-sponsored
faireach April attracts thousands from the St. Louis community,
and all proceeds go to a specified charity.
In March 2001, the women's basketball team became the first
women's team in NCAA Division III history to win four consecutive
national championships; the Bears also hold the longest winning
streak of any female team in all divisions, with 81 straight
The University's athletic teams are on fire and
the focus of the student spirit organization, Red Alert, which promotes
student attendance at sporting events. Since 1989, the women's volleyball
team has triumphed many times, winning seven national championship
titles. In the 2002 season, the Lady Bears lost in the finals of
the NCAA Division III, but had a stellar 41-2 record. The Bears
football team won the UAA championship in 1999, 2000, and 2002,
which marked its 10th-consecutive winning season. As NCAA Division
III champions in 2001, women's basketball became the second team
in tournament history to win four consecutive national championships.
They also had a record-setting 81-game winning streak stretching
from February 1998 until January 2001. Throughout the 2001-2002
season, men's basketball was ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division III standings.
The team won the UAA title for the 6th time and advanced to the
NCAA Championships. In 2003, both basketball teams continued their
athletic dominance into the NCAA Division III tournaments, where
women lost in the sectional championship and the men faced defeat
in the second round.
A diverse student body reflects itself in the
groups active on campus. Many cultural groups exist, providing both
a social resource for their members and an educational function
for all students. Among those are Black Anthology, a student-run
production that celebrates African-American history and culture;
the Chinese Student Association, which marks the beginning of the
Chinese New Year Festival with a widely attended festival; and ASHOKA,
an Indian student group that celebrates Diwali, India's Festival
of Lights, each year with a giant cultural showcase.
Each group represents an important segment of
the student population that helps to give Washington University
its distinctive student atmosphere. And, perhaps, one only has to
look at Activities Fair, where hundreds of students gather each
fall and spring to learn of the ever-growing opportunities for involvement,
to know the great level of student participation on campus and beyond.