Published: September 11, 2023
Author: Terri Sunderland
THE PURPOSE OF THE TRADITION:
Traditions at a university can begin in many ways. The administration can dictate them. They can start with faculty, staff members, or students. They can vary in execution, and they can morph over time.
For a tradition to continue for an extended period, however, its purpose must remain constant. And so it is that the purpose of the All-College Hike at Greenville University exists today as it did in the early 1900s – to build a community.
ALL COLLEGE HIKE – THE BEGINNINGS
College life was simple in the early 1900s in the rural town of Greenville, Illinois. No radios. Very few cars. Long walks and hayrides got students where they wanted to go. The "Gullies" provided students with the greatest campus amenities.
The tradition of the All-College Hike began in the form of an 18-mile "nutting" hike by the campus men. Simply looking for things to do, the young men started collecting hickory nuts that, by fall, had fallen to the ground. The tradition rose to a grand scale by 1912. Sanctioned by Marvin Marston, the athletic director, the hike turned into a full-out camping trip. The men returned to campus as brothers, complete with their spoils. They showcased trophies of nuts from their dormitory windows and enjoyed nut fudge for weeks on end.
The women of the day responded with a community-building idea of their own. A poster showed up in chapel that said "Girls only…Hudson Lake Picnic Friday." A small group of women hiked to nearby Mulberry Grove, singing, and shouting the whole way there. They spent the day on Hudson Lake and slept out under the stars. The second year, a much larger group of women hiked, but encountered a downpour that was more than their shelters could bear. One of the girls remembered a nearby roller skating rink, dark and vacant. They broke the lock for protection from the storm, and turned their sanctuary into an all-night skating party.
From that day forward, the women claimed the same privilege as the men. What had been a men's cross-country trek for nuts became the All-College Hike for all students. While men and women continued to hike their separate ways for the next several years, by the 1950s, the sexes united, and the student-organized All-College Hike became a unified tradition.
THE CO-ED YEARS
In the late 1960s, the All-College Hike moved to the semester's second or third week and transferred to Durley Camp. It was all about building community. The student body was growing, and students had to rebuild their community each year because seniors left, and the first-year students arrived. Their foundation was found in Luke 24. Discipleship happens ON THE WAY. Faculty and students walked alongside one another because that's how people get to know one another.
Dr. Elva McAllaster, (the namesake of today's McAllaster Scholarship) was a very straight and strict professor who would exhibit a different side of herself on the day of All-College Hike, standing on the steps of Hogue Tower, letting out a yell that would carry throughout campus to call students to the hike.
Most students walked to Durley Camp, alongside the faculty and staff members. A small group of administrators started a running group, and it was their tradition to kick off the hike and run the route. The group included Frank Thompson, Tom Morgan, and Ish Smith. Other administrators joined in as time went by.
The freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior classes would compete in volleyball. Faculty and staff would form teams to compete against the students. There was even a tug-of-war competition between faculty and students. Administrators and faculty members would head out early and cook, and the dining commons personnel would bring the rest for lunch.
In those days, the faculty would create an assignment for the day: "Meet at least two new people." By the time students were seniors, they were examining ways to meet new students and used this event to bring them into the community.
THE TRADITION CONTINUES
The cross-country team still runs the 6-mile route, and many students choose to walk together and enjoy the beautiful fall weather. There are certainly far more cars than there were back in the early days. President Davis's horses are a new addition, too. The early 1900s didn’t have cell phones to take pictures of your new besties like we do today. But there will still be the hike, games, food, fun, new friends, and a chapel service to end the day together.
The purpose remains in this longstanding tradition. Everyone – students, faculty, and staff – take a break from university life, get to know someone new, enjoy God's world, and build community within the GU family.