One hundred years ago, homecoming meant a day off from Saturday classes, cheering on “the Dales” against their biggest rival, Albion, and watching the crowning of a homecoming queen with fewer than 60 homecoming alumni.
A century later, Hillsdale College is celebrating the anniversary with a centennial theme, anticipating many alumni, and embracing the changes that have occurred over the past 100 years.
Homecoming originated with alumnus Albert DeLapp, 1914, great grandfather of current students senior Bridget DeLapp, and sophomore Sarah DeLapp. The first homecoming in 1916 brought almost 60 alumni, marking a success big enough to begin an annual tradition. In honor of DeLapp’s achievements, the DeLapp family has been invited to return this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary.
“The success of this initial experiment proves by the keen interest manifested and the large number who came back, that such a day would succeed,” a 1916 Collegian article reads. Despite pouring rain in 1917 and a scoreless football game in 1920, homecoming was deemed a success year after year.
By 1936, 20 years after homecoming began, the event included multiple speakers, two football games, a Founder’s Day banquet, an annual homecoming dance, and a homecoming trophy — a cup donated by two trustees which would be given to the fraternity or sorority best represented in homecoming activities. According to a 1936 Collegian article, 40 percent of points came from house decoration, 30 percent from banquet attendance, 20 percent from the number of alumni returning, and 10 percent from the dance attendance.
Over the next several years, homecoming often featured important moments in school history.
The 1937 celebration “cheered the official opening of a campaign … for the ultimate enlargement of Hillsdale’s endowments by no less than two million dollars,” a 1947 Collegian article reads. (In today’s money, that’s about $21.5 million).
In 1942, the new president Harvey Turner’s formal inauguration coincided with homecoming.
Representatives of 45 other colleges and universities marched to the college church in procession.
The 1946 homecoming featured a “midget” football team demonstration, including about 100 boys ages 10 – 12.
The year of the 50th anniversary, 1966, the school also celebrated groundbreaking ceremonies for Mary Randall Preschool, costing $180,000 (over $1.3 million today). A 1966 Collegian article compared its unique shape to a “large flying saucer.”
In 1968, students began cheering on the Chargers rather than the Dales when the mascot was changed.
The 1986 homecoming brought a social change; it was the first homecoming following the introduction of a BYOB social policy.The Collegian explained the change.
“A big part of homecoming is also the evening social activities at the fraternity houses. But if you haven’t been up on the ‘Dale news lately, you’ll wonder where the kegs and open bars have gone,” a 1986 Collegian article reads. The BYOB policy was introduced around the same time as the 1985 policy banning midweek parties.
The declining number of women in sororities led to a 1996 policy allowing only one women from each sorority to be nominated for homecoming queen. Three years later in 1999, men were added to the homecoming court.
In 2009, the Student Activities Board revamped homecoming to include more undergraduate activities. Slowly, spirit week began looking more and more like it looks today.
It wasn’t until 2011 that Simpson Residence began its string of victories, now defending a five-year championship.
Though homecoming has evolved through the century, the core elements remain: an exciting football match, some form of dancing, and an opportunity to see dozens of alumni.