Founder's Day

Present-day Founder’s Weekend is really the melding of two distinct events: the celebration of Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard’s birthday and the annual alumnae homecoming. While she was alive, Stockard’s birthday was celebrated every March 27th with a dinner in Main Hall, and graduates often returned to honor her on this day.1 Additionally, the traditional Homecoming event occurred in the fall, most often at Thanksgiving (but not exclusively).1,4

The Mag-Em basketball game on Thanksgiving, 1907.
The Mag-Em basketball game on Thanksgiving, 1907.17
Students and guests cheer for the Mags at the Thanksgiving basketball game, 1907.
Students and guests cheer for the Mags at the Thanksgiving basketball game, 1907.17
Card advertising the Thanksgiving hockey game, 1927.
Card advertising the Thanksgiving hockey game, 1927.3

Early years had as many as three events that alumnae returned for: V.A.C. Stockard’s birthday, Thanksgiving (specifically for the last year’s graduates), and a broader “alumnae homecoming.”4,5 In 1935, for example, the previous year’s grads returned on Thanksgiving, but Homecoming occurred in October.4

The fall homecomings fell out of use around the 1930s and Founder’s Day became the official day for alumnae to return to Cottey. It’s said that 1893 graduate Lulu Kinsey Alexander was the one who proposed moving the VACS birthday celebration to the closest Saturday and calling it “Founder’s Day”.1,2 The annual society basketball tournament moved too. While it originally took place on Thanksgiving, it moved to Founder’s Day sometime between 1914 and 1925 – before Homecoming disappeared. 6,7

Founder's 2010 Sup'n'sing
Cottey students sing to alumnae at Supper and Sing (Sup'n'Sing), 2010.18
  Class of 1960 at 2010 reunion
Members of the class of 1960 returned for their 50-year reunion, 2010.18

Common Elements

The early Homecomings usually opened with a religious invocation, which became the “Alumnae Chapel Service” of the 1950s and ‘60s. The society basketball or hockey tourney took place in the morning, with either the Mags or Ems (and later the Delphs or Alphs) claiming victory. These matches disappeared sometime after 1956.8 A staple in the 1920s and ‘30s was the Fine Arts Contest, which saw the two societies competing in the areas of visual and musical arts. A birthday dinner followed these society activities in the early years, which turned into an alumnae luncheon after V.A.C. Stockard died. From the 1930s on, the luncheon was followed by a meeting of the Alumnae Association and an open house on campus and at the President’s house. Founder’s Day also became an apex for fundraising from the early 1900s, as alumnae and friends of the college were encouraged to donate to the endowment fund on this day.9 This was an additional way for the literary societies to compete for bragging rights.

Founder's Day program of 1928.
Founder's Day recital program of 1928.3
Founder's Day basketball and fine arts contest results, 1928
Founder's Day basketball and Fine Arts Contest results, 1928.3 Ems won the b-ball game; Mags won the contest.
Fine arts contest program, 1928
The fine arts contest of 1928 included "extemporaneous speaking," singing, music-playing, and artwork.3

Noteworthy Years

1914 - Alumnae Rally

Called the “Alumnae Rally,” the 1914 homecoming took place the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.6 It was the first rally held since Cottey’s silver jubilee (25-year anniversary) five years earlier. The weekend began with a program by the music and expression departments. There was an opening invocation by Reverend J.T. Pritchett followed by an assortment of performances, including “Murmering Zephyrs” and “Bill Brad and the Forbidden Fruit.”10 Addresses by alumnae followed, and teacher Mary Boddie was honored (the half-namesake of Rosemary Hall). A banquet for alumnae was held in the Main Hall dining room on Saturday night, and donations to the school pushed the endowment fund close to $10,000.

Students wrote in the yearbook, “the best part of the rally was our half holiday. Every student enjoyed it to the utmost and only wished for another of its kind within a short time.”6 The following poetic description of the banquet was also printed:

We had set the tables for thirty-four,
There was salad and patties and oysters galore,
But some of the waitresses went on a strike,
They went to town—was it just for a hike?
But the Alumnae banquet went off just the same,
And the rest of the Seniors got the best of the game.6
Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard's Founder's Day thanks, 1932
V.A.C.S. thanks P.E.O.s for their birthday greetings, 1932.19
Founder's Day luncheon, 1954
Founder's Day luncheon in Main Hall dining room, 1954.20
Founder's Day luncheon in Raney Dining Hall, 1961
Founder's Day luncheon in Raney Dining Room, 1961.21

1920 - Stunt Show

1920’s Founder’s began on Friday with a “stunt night” for the Cottey state clubs.11 There were five clubs representing the home states of most of the Cottey students and a sixth club, “Salamagundi” [sic], incorporating the rest. (Missouri was divided into two clubs this year: the North and the South.) Each club performed a skit for the audience, usually having some relevance to its respective state:

Oklahoma beautifully portrayed [its history] in three [scenes:] the Indian in his home, next driven away by the whites and finally the union of the two races.
The Kansas club received second honor in their taking adaptation of the story of Cinderella to state pride and history. Altogether the evening was highly enjoyable, full of fun, wholesome rivalry and the spirit that makes for success.11

The students were thrilled to have no school on Saturday (yes, Cottey used to hold Saturdays classes). Instead, there was an afternoon of speeches by V.A.C. Stockard, reverends, and soon-to-be Cottey president J.C. Harmon. The audience also heard reports of funds raised for the endowment by the literary societies, the children’s department, alumnae, and one “sitting room” (suite). The total donated came to $1,350. Cotteyites performed college yells and songs between talks “with all the vim and ardor possible only to a student body.”

Following the program was an honorary dinner for the students, administration, boards, and “old girls.” V.A.C. Stockard’s table was decorated with a huge bouquet of roses. Many of the previous year’s graduates returned and had a singing duel with the class of 1920:

An especially enjoyable feature was the presenc[e] of twelve members of the class of 1919, one coming from Indiana for the reunion. They had a table in the dining room all their own and gave vent to their happiness in their class songs to which the seniors of '20 responded with equal vim. The overflow of spirits found outlet in occasional yells from different parts of the dining room.

The little folks gave a rousing rah, rah, rah, for the president and the board, and the latter with Rev. Stout as "yell leader" responded with nine rahs and Cottey! Cottey! and just as the guests left the dining room, another cheer was given [for] Cottey adding [a] "swimming pool" which is one of the cherished hopes of the college.11
Helen Gill greets a returning senior, 1965
Helen Gill greets a returning senior, Dee Ann Davis, the day before Founder's Day, 1965.22
Founder's program, 1968
Founder's Weekend program, 1968.23

Freshmen entertain Seniors and alumnae at BIL Hill during Founder's, 1972.

1938 - VACS's 90th Birthday

The Founder’s Weekend of 1938 celebrated Virginia Alice Cottey’s 90th birthday. Ninety alumnae and guests were expected to attend, but an astounding 200 showed up.12,13 The weekend began with the revival of the Fine Arts Contest, which had been so popular in the 1920s.14 The Mags took the honors there and in the basketball game on Saturday morning. Virginia McClure, V.A.C. Stockard’s niece, was reelected president of the Cottey Alumnae Association at their meeting in the afternoon.13

Virginia also served as toastmistress at the closing banquet, which featured music and recitations by alumnae. Marie Talbot played a melodeon solo and then an organ-melodeon duet with Mrs. E.R. King, and alumna Jerry Fruin Buckner sang a ditty written especially for V.A.C. Stockard, based on “Alice Ben Bolt” and “Alice Blue Gown”:

Now we honor, Sweet Alice Cottey,
Sweet Alice whose hair is now white,
But whose smile is still happy and ever so young,
Which brings us all delight –

For our Dear Alice Cottey Stockard
On your ninetieth birthday today
We have all come to say
That we wish that you may
Always be as young
As you are today.

For each of your dear Cottey girls
Will be true to you for aye.
We all do adore you,
We’ll ever be for you,
Our Dear Alice Cottey Stockard.13

Many people, including Jerry, were in tears by the end of the song.

After dinner, Alice was interviewed by Virginia McClure for the enjoyment of the audience.15 Alice described the differences between Cottey in the ‘30s and in earlier years, including old rules, curricula, and building arrangements. The interview was filmed for posterity. (Does it still exist?)

Founder's weekend, 1981.
Founder's weekend, 1981.
Teri shows visitors around Hotel Minear (Co-Min suite) during Founder's, 1987.
Teri shows visitors around "Hotel Minear" (Co-Min suite) during Founder's, 1987.24

1945 - World War II

1945 was an unusual year, because Founder’s Day was essentially cancelled. It’s more interesting to hear the news from President Marjorie Mitchell herself, printed in the Cottey Bulletin:

Founder’s Day in 1945 might well be a rather special occasion, for it commemorates the sixtieth year of the life of Cottey. Sixty years would be basis enough for an uncommon celebration. But there is the war to be considered; the government has asked us not to travel. We know that only a few of all who would like to be here can be. We on the campus must add the pleasure their coming would have meant to the other things we can do without. Much as they would like to come and we should like to have them—we will postpone the enjoyment until we can celebrate victory first. […]

Of course, we shall not have visitors from distant places, and perhaps very few from even this neighborhood since gasoline and time are precious. And of course there can be no luncheon at the college for want of help in the kitchen and ration point deposits in the bank. But we shall still have our commemorative ceremony; we shall hold the annual meeting of the alumnae association; and we shall add, this year, an open-house in the afternoon at Stockard Hall, Mrs. Stockard’s old home.

We hope that every former student who is near enough to come will do so, and that all who cannot will think of the college and Mrs. Stockard on Founder’s Day and say, “How I should like to be there!” Then when the war is won, we shall look for a mighty return! 16
Alumnae hang out around Robbie Hall while waiting for the fireworks to start, 2005.
Alumnae hang out around Robbie Hall while waiting for the fireworks to start, 2005.
The class of 1985 serenades students in Robbie Hall at Founder's, 2005.
The class of 1985 serenades students in Robbie Hall at Founder's, 2005.
Founder's Weekend, 2006.
Members of the 2006 class reminisce with a returning senior on Founder's Weekend, 2006.

Works Cited:

  1. Founder’s Day Origin At Cottey.” The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 15 Mar 1956: 1. Google news. Web.
  2. “An Alumna speaks to Cottey . . .” The P.E.O. Record July 1957: 16-17. Print.
  3. Brown, Florence. Personal scrapbook. 1927-28.
  4. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1936. Print.
  5. Cottey College Bulletin. Vol. 20, No. 11. Nov. 1927. Print.
  6. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1915. Print.
  7. Plans for Founder’s Day at Cottey.” The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 28 Mar. 1925: 1. Google news. Web.
  8. “A Letter to Thousands.” The P.E.O. Record Mar. 1956: 16-17. Print.
  9. From the Files.” The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 30 Mar. 1959: 2. Google news. Web.
  10. Cottey Alumnae Grand Rally.” The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 28 Nov. 1914: 5. Google news. Web.
  11. "Founders Day at Cottey College." The Nevada Daily Mail and the Evening Post [Nevada, MO] 29 Mar. 1920: 4. Google news. Web.
  12. “Cottey College Homecoming.” The P.E.O. Record Mar. 1938: 21. Print.
  13. Brill, Fern Wharton. “Annual Alumnae Cottey College Homecoming.” The P.E.O. Record May 1938: 37-38. Print.
  14. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1938. Print.
  15. Troesch, Helen DeRusha. Life of Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard. Wayside Press, Inc., 1955. Print.
  16. Mitchell, Marjorie. “As We See It (Founder’s Day).” Cottey College Bulletin. Mar. 1945. Print.
  17. Schenck, Beulah. Personal scrapbook. 1908.
  18. Courtesy Jennifer Scott Price, cSc 2000.
  19. Stockard, Virginia Alice Cottey. “Mrs. Stockard and Cottey's Founder's Day.” The P.E.O. Record May 1932: 31. Print.
  20. “A Preview of Spring at Cottey College.” The P.E.O. Record Feb. 1955: 16-17. Print.
  21. Cottey Alumnae From 15 States Back to Campus.” The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 24 Mar. 1961: 1. Google news. Web.
  22. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1965. Print.
  23. “Founder's Day Program.” The Tower 11 Mar. 1968: 2. Print.
  24. Courtesy Staci Thompson Adman, cSc 1986.
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