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Students celebrate the 50th anniversary of homecoming in 1966. Winona Yearbook | Courtesy
Stu­dents cel­e­brate the 50th anniversary of home­coming in 1966.
Winona Yearbook | Courtesy

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.