Knox College’s celebration of Founder’s Day can be identified by the emergence of a large wooden cake that sits outside of Ferris Lounge and which glows with the light of artificial candles. For Associate Director of Alumni and Constituent Relations Jennifer Gallas the cake was a mysterious phenomenon she set out to uncover.
After doing her own research, Gallas found out that the wooden cake was first made in 1952, which was when the 115th Founder’s Day was celebrated at Knox. A new candle is added each year, with 182 candles total on the cake this year. Gallas is unsure what made 1952 significant, but noted that the festivities that year were especially extravagant.
“There was some big party that happened that day and like 800 students attended from what it said,” she said. “So they had a big birthday party and some skits in some of the chapel.”
While Founder’s Day has become routine in terms of the ways it is celebrated, organizers normally put together a more elaborate set of events every five years.
Gallas mentioned that on the 175th Founder’s Day, large cutouts of George Washington Gale were made and placed around campus.
She says that, in the early parts of Knox’s history, Founder’s Day had served as dedication days for buildings such as Seymour Library.
“It’s just kind of a nice time where you know probably a lot of people are going to be back and it’s like, oh, this would be a really good time to celebrate this new addition to the campus,” she said.
Gallas enjoys the annual ceremonies and handing out of cake, but hopes to make Founder’s Day more informative for students. She mentioned that she and some of the student Alumni Ambassadors had set up an informational booth during homecoming weekend, and would like to do more of that for occasions like Founder’s Day.
“We’d really like to do some more with Knox traditions and kind of educating people about traditions if we couldÉ talking about the college’s history and explaining to the students who these people were,” she said.
For Gallas, the culmination of Founder’s Day, along with the wooden cake, is the Alumni Achievement Award ceremony that takes place each year during Founder’s Day Convocation. This year, the ceremony will take place on Feb. 15 at 5 p.m. in the Muelder Room of Seymour Library and will honor Joe Cecchi ‘68, Mark McIntosh ‘72, Bridget Coughlin ‘94 and Joel Christensen ‘06.
Alumni Director Carol Brown is tasked with assembling a committee which works to select the four alumni who are honored each year. Nominations are sent in by faculty, staff and family and are then voted on by the committee. Each year, three alumni are recognized in the ‘regular’ category, and one young alum is recognized. For Brown, this ceremony has a multitude of functions. Not only does it honor Knox alumni, but it also provides motivation for current students.
“The reason this is important is because it is a very visible way for current students to see what alumni have gone on to do in their lives after Knox,” she said. “It never fails, in my experience, that the recipients share very heartfelt stories about their Knox experience when they were a student as well as explain what they’ve gone on to do with their professional lives, or sometimes service lives.”
Brown enjoys hearing what successful alumni find valuable in their Knox education. She noted that many discuss the accessible faculty, financial support and fast-paced curriculum as aspects that made their Knox education so valuable.
“I think most appreciate the challenging academic environment here,” Brown said. “Many have spoken about how well prepared they were as they went on to graduate school because of the rigorous curriculum here and how much they appreciated that after the fact.”