Week of events marks U birthday

Founders Day events kick off a celebration of the institution’s 153rd year.

Anna Weggel

To celebrate the University’s 153rd anniversary, officials are planning a weeklong birthday bash.

It is Founders Day, but the celebration will not stop at sundown as students, faculty and staff are able to attend events throughout the week, including a chili feed, a theater performance and a discussion with a best-selling author.

The Office of Student Affairs and the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost began Founders Day on the University’s 150th birthday in 2001. Although the number of events celebrated each year is declining, University officials still expect a large turnout this year.

“We’re still keeping the tradition alive,” said Kim Hoffman, events coordinator in the University relations office. “People will come, they always do.”

University spokesman Paul Moore said last year’s Founders Day occurred in conjunction with University President Bob Bruininks’ inauguration, adding a “special tie” to the celebration.

“In the past, attendance has been good. This year (Founders Day) is standing alone.”

Moore said he and University staff members expect to serve approximately 3,000 students today during Founders Day’s chili feed. The feed will run from noon to 1 p.m. in front of Northrop Auditorium.

Guests at the chili feed will include Executive Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Programs Robert Jones, Bruininks and Goldy Gopher. An actor playing John Sargent Pillsbury, one of the University’s founders, will also attend the feed.

Aside from the chili feed, past Founders Day celebrations have included events such as dog sledding, winter masquerades and snowshoe making, according to University Archives.

First-year liberal arts student Blake Verdon said he would probably participate in Founders Day events.

“I’d simply go on the basis that it’s free and I’m in college,” Verdon said. “And maybe Bruininks has something interesting to say.”

When the University was founded in February 1851, all but a small portion of Minnesota’s lands were owned by American Indians, and statehood was still seven years away, according to the University’s sesquicentennial celebration Web site.

Classes began on Nov. 26, 1851, with 20 students and one teacher. At the time, the University functioned solely from private donations and student fees, which were $4, $5 or $6 depending on the student’s individual curriculum.

Because of the modest tuition rates and the lack of state and federal funds, the University was forced to close in 1858 until reorganization took place and the school was able to re-open nine years later, according to the site.

In 1873 Warren Clark Eustis and Henry Martyn Williamson became the first students to graduate from the institution, the site states.

The University’s Twin Cities campus Web site states that more than 11,500 degrees were awarded throughout the Twin Cities, Morris, Crookston and Duluth campuses between 2002 and 2003.