WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AMERICAN
In 1901, Cornell University students created a new holiday on campus, called “Spring Day.”
Many faculty members objected to the holiday, but few were as visible and vocal as professor Burt Green Wilder, who would go on to become a defining, if little-known, figure in American higher education.
Spring Day built upon a relatively new tradition: During the 1890s students began holding a dance and fundraiser, the Navy Ball, prior to major fall regattas. Not surprisingly, on the day of the regatta, class attendance was low. But attendance became even more abysmal in 1901, when the students moved the Navy Ball to March and reorganized it as a “circus parade” and noontime concert to benefit the Cornell ...