One of the University’s longest-running traditions has come to a close. For almost 150 years, most graduating classes have placed an engraved stone commemorating their graduation years on the walls of Nassau Hall. But space for new stones on the building’s exterior has become increasingly limited in recent years, according to University administrators, prompting the University to find a new place for the stones. Starting next spring, class stones will now be placed around the two walkways that lead to Nassau Hall.
According to Bob Durkee ’69, vice president and secretary of the University, discussions on altering the tradition began in 2013. Durkee explained that a group representing various offices — including the Office of the Vice President and Secretary, the Office of the University Architect, Office of Alumni Affairs, and the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, among others — shared responsibility for making the decision.
The Office of the University Architect, Office of Alumni Affairs, and ODUS could not be reached by the time of publication.
“The reason that we began to discuss this issue,” says Durkee, “was information from the facilities department and the architect’s office that said that we were getting to a point where Nassau Hall couldn’t accommodate any more class stones.”
The group met over a period of a year and had conversations with the student body, including classes that would and wouldn’t be affected by the change, which would come in 2018. As such, according to Durkee, the details of this change had been communicated to members of the Class of 2018 several years ago. They also engaged an outside consultant to determine potential locations for putting the class stones in the future. There were a few proposals other than the walkway, like the wall in between Nassau Hall and Chancellor Green, but it was ultimately deemed too small and too far away from the other stones.
“The consensus,” Durkee said, “was that being on the front campus was important, being as close as possible to Nassau Hall was desirable.” After these, they chose the walkway. The medallion that’s set in the ground by the walkway that bears the University’s informal motto also commemorates the University’s alumni. Thus, “installing stones in a way that would radiate from the medallion recognizes the important role that alumni play in the university,” Durkee said.
Student reactions have been mixed thus far.
“It’s definitely a shame to lose a tradition that has been a centerpoint of University practices and something that classes have done for centuries,” said Misha Tseitlin ’21, “but it’s understandable that as the University continues to grow things must change.”
There are also some that doubt the lack of space on Nassau Hall.
“It's kind of sad but we can't do anything about it,” said Isabel Leigh ’19. “It's also kind of a Jack-Rose situation. There's definitely room.”
“My overall reaction to this is primarily negative,” said Ben Bollinger ’21. “It seems that there’s still space left, and I don’t know, people walk on the walkway, so….”
“There’s something to be said for being the first class not on Nassau,” Aidan Gray ’18 said. He suggested replacing the oldest plaque on Nassau Hall with one for the Class of 2018.
The plan is to start filling up the walkway from the medallion bearing the University’s informal motto, alternating sides every year. First, the 17 classes currently not commemorated on Nassau Hall’s walls will receive their own stones in May, before Commencement, kicking off the new tradition. Next, the Class of 2018 will receive its own stone as the first newly graduated class to be commemorated on the walkway. Though classes have had to cover the costs of their stones in the past and will have to do so in the future as well, the costs for the 17 classes as well as for the transitionary Class of 2018 will be covered by the University.