Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gammas celebrate centennial anniversary

On Saturday, Randolph students celebrated a century-old coffin heist that sparked 100 years of odd class spirit.

The Gammas, Randolph’s spirit group for class years ending in odd numbers, celebrated the their centennial anniversary with several activities allowing Gamma alumnae to mingle with current students and celebrate the College’s traditional rivalry between odd and even classes.

“We wanted a way for the alumnae to connect with the current Gammas, as well as to reconnect with each other,” said Alexandra Orell ’13, Gamma co-president.

Though the spirit group’s history has many variations, there are common elements. The story started in 1913 when a member of an even class bought a coffin as a symbolic way to “bury odd spirit,” a catch phrase that evens still use today. However, a member of an odd class intercepted the coffin when it was being delivered and hid it for several days. Women from the odd class burned the coffin on front campus. Legend says that the coffin’s silver handles were later melted down into coffin-shaped rings that Gammas still wear today.

The Gammas continue to use symbols of a coffin to remember that early triumph over the even classes. They also have a devil mascot that was added in 1915 to represent the mischievous nature of the students in the group.

A few years after the Gammas formed, even classes began their own spirit group, the Etas. These two groups have been central to the friendly rivalry between odd and even classes.

The Gamma centennial celebration featured several of the traditions that have grown out of the class rivalry. After an opening brunch in the Skeller, the spirit groups participated in a Skeller Sing, in which Etas and Gammas alike led their classes in the songs that they have written over the years to celebrate class spirit. The evening concluded with the painting of the Even Post and a dance party titled “Drop It Like It’s Odd” for the entire student body.

Orell said the centennial was a great opportunity to reflect on the meaning behind the traditions. “As I paint the post, I sometimes wonder ‘How many women have walked these brick sidewalks before me,’” she said. “I’m so fortunate to be a part of a group that has changed my life for the better.”

The friendly rivalry between the even and odds has played an important role in shaping the traditions and history of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and Randolph College as well. “The sister class tradition is one of the most beautiful things about our school,” said Maddy Carmain ’13, a member of the Gammas. “It encourages bonding between the classes. The spirit groups are part of what keeps the sister classes going.”

Gage Stunz ’13, Gamma co-president, enjoys the fact that the spirit groups allow students to serve as as holders of the College’s history and traditions. “I think the even-odd rivalry is a very special thing about Randolph College,” he said.