The College Night tradition is so unique in American higher education that it has been honored at the Library of Congress in a permanent exhibit in the American Folklife Center. Started in 1919 as a series of skits performed in the school cafeteria, the tradition has grown over the years to a week-long series of athletic contests and other homecoming events. As anyone who has visited the UM campus knows, the pinnacle of College Night week is a full-scale musical theatre production, which is written, directed, and performed entirely by students.
One of the perks of working in the library is the occasional chance to look at the production books and programs from past years. The library not only houses these treasures in the University Archives, we also share some of them with the UM community at this special time of the academic year. Following UM's College Night traditions, this year's focus is on class years that mark decades.
I learn something new about our homecoming tradition every year. Here are a few random facts about College Night that I found interesting:
- 1921 marked the first year of Gold Side and Purple Side productions. The Gold Side claimed victory in the very first of these match ups.
- Although men began attending UM (then Alabama College) in 1956, it was not until 1963 that co-leaders of each sex were elected. This tradition continues today.
- The tradition of dedicating College Night to an individual or group of people began in the 1930s. Only two people have received the honor more than once: Dr. (and later Dean) Thomas H. Napier received the dedication in 1934 and 1944. Ms. Mary Frances Tipton, longtime Director of the library, received the honor in 1967 and 1980.
- In 1942, the first College Night held after Americans entered World War II, the dedication was offered to "people in the service of the USA."
- The Purple Side's longest victory streak was six wins in the years 1945-1951. The Golds own the longest streak in school history with seven victories from 1961-1967.
- College Night performances were staged in Reynolds Hall in 1928 and 1929, after which they were moved to the new Palmer Hall. Palmer has been home to College Night every year since, with the exception of 2007, when the auditorium was closed for roof repairs.
- The Purple Side owns the most College Night victories with 47 wins. There have been 42 Gold victories.
On the UM Website:
Also on the Web:
University of Montevallo's College Night - Library of Congress American Folklife Center web page