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  • Devon Mayse

A Standing Tradition

Why yes, we do expect you to shake everyone’s hand here at Olivet College.

I know how annoying some students think Stand Up is; trust me I’ve been there. My freshmen and sophomore years I refused to participate. Finally, in my junior year, I reluctantly met everyone on this campus. However, after realizing Stand Up was an over 100-year-old tradition, I regret not joining the reception lines my first two years as an Olivetian. Although aspects of the event have been altered throughout the years, we are essentially attending the same event as Olivet College students over a century before us.

We can trace the tradition back to the late 1800s. According to an 1898 Echo article, there is mention of a YMCA Opening Reception, including descriptions of all the young men on campus meeting one another by shaking hands, which is where the origins of Stand Up began, if not earlier. Today, we associate Stand Up as an event following Opening Convocation, accompanied by activities such as bull riding, inflatables, and various activities, followed by a campus-wide picnic. Similarly, in the years following the turn of the century, until the 1930s, Stand Up was an occasion on its own, enjoyed by students, faculty and townspeople alike.

The early years of Stand Up were sponsored by the YW and YMCA. In college archive records, including various alumni scrapbooks, Echo articles, and the Olivetian/ Oaks yearbooks, it is noted that from about 1907 until 1918 Stand Up was held at the Phi Alpha Pi Hall, and at the Old Shipherd Hall parlor rooms in 1920 and 1921, before the Congregational Church become the home of Stand Up from 1922 until around 1927. Yet, as Olivet College continued to grow, so did the Stand Up reception line. Echo articles in the 1930s claim as many as 500 people were present for the largest Stand Up the college had seen. With this growth, Stand Up was moved to MacKay Gymnasium, Klock Commons, and the Kirk Center in order to have enough room for the whole campus to become acquainted. As time had went on, the president and his wife became the hosts of Stand Up, instead of the YMCA and YWCA of the past.

The main concept behind Stand Up has remained the same since it was initiated over a century ago. The college president and his wife begin the reception line, while students and faculty shake hands before joining the end of the line. The changes in Stand Up come in the activities before and after everyone has met. Today, we attend Opening Convocation before Stand Up, and after everyone has participated, we are dismissed. But over 100 years ago, Stand Up was its own event and seen as the first social gathering of the school year. It was often held on the first Saturday of the Fall semester. Vintage Stand Up began with the reception line and meeting, then turned into a “real party” as several 1920s yearbooks describe. Some years a play would be held and guests would discuss the main points, and in most of the early years, the college would come together to dance and sing songs like the popular “Oaks of Olivet.”

So while there may be a picnic instead of a formal party, and the plays and college songs have since been replaced with inflatable games, the tradition that is Stand Up is very much alive.

Fist bump? I think yes.

Fist bump? I think yes.

Stand up in the late 1800s

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