Commencement week has always been special on our campus, marked by ceremony and tradition.
And daisies, thousands of daisies.
For many decades, the big event for seniors was the Class Day ceremony, held the day before commencement – usually in Foust Park. Class Day Committees planned the programs to reflect each class’s unique “personality” and showcase their accomplishments. Typically included were the presentation of the Class Gift, naming the Everlasting Class Officers and outstanding seniors, retiring the Class Colors, and singing the Class Song.
Class identity was the nexus of campus social occasions such as bonfires and teas, musical and theatrical productions, and athletic competitions. The adoption of “Sister Classes” – juniors and freshmen, seniors and sophomores – further instilled bonds among students.
“The relationship between Sister Classes was very close,” Carol Matney ’63 explains. “My class served as mentors and ‘big sisters’ to the Class of ’65 for two years. The special bond we shared created wonderful memories.”
One constant over the years was the sophomores’ final tribute to their Sister Class: the formal Daisy Chain procession to Foust Park and recession, as they sang the Sister Class Song.
Here’s a nod to the ever-evolving traditions, to the memories made, and to the bonds we’ve shared here on this beautiful campus.
Class Day procession in Foust Park. Class of 1965 sophomores hold the Daisy Chain while the graduating Class of 1963 walk down the center aisle, class mascots in tow.
Class of 1903 graduating seniors carry the Daisy Chain on their outside shoulders as they pose in front of Main Building (now Foust Building).
The graduating Class of 1910 march to Front Campus, flanked by their 1912 “Sister Class.” Carrying the class and college banners is senior Laura Weill, who wrote what has ever since been the College/University Song.
North Carolina College for Women sophomores prepare for the Class of 1925’s procession to their Class Day ceremony. The 1925 Pine Needles identified the seniors as “Our Leading Ladies.”
The Daisy Chain rests on the grass during the 1930 Class Day ceremony. It will be carried again for the ceremony’s recession, as well as the following day for commencement.
Class of 1940 Class Day ceremony. Their class motto: “Aim for higher things.”
May God build for you a harmony
That will be both great and strong
Making all your life a melody
And every day a song.
— Lines from the Traditional Sister Song
Daisy Chain Committee members hold a 50-foot garland of greenery to which they will add the daisies.
Speakers on stage for the 1963 Class Day ceremony. The Class of 1963’s colors were red and white, represented by corsages, the floral arrangement in front of the podium, and the class banner.
Sophomores of the Class of 1967, wearing the traditional white dresses, shoes, and gloves, carry the Daisy Chain past the flagpole in front of Foust Building.
Traditions such as Class Day helped generate support of and loyalty to our alma mater.
— Everlasting President Sue Medley, Class of 1965
Class of 1968 student officers and speakers stand to sing the University Song at the conclusion of their Class Day ceremony program.
Two rows of sophomores bear the Daisy Chain as they lead the 1969 Class Day recession out of Foust Park. This was one of the last Class Day ceremonies held at the University. After coeducation was introduced, many of the Woman’s College era traditions were discontinued.
At 5:00 a.m. the day before Class Day, sleepy sophomores boarded a wagon – later a truck – and were transported to a field outside town where they picked basketfuls of daisies. To ensure an abundance of flowers, the college contracted local farmers to grow them. Shirley Sharpe Duncan ’51 recalls that her sophomore year the daisy field was located where Greensboro’s Belk at Friendly Shopping Center is today.
Upon return to campus, the sophomores spent the remainder of the day crafting two 50-foot-long garlands of greenery entwined with daisies. The finished product was put into cold storage until its debut on Class Day. Mary-Owens Bell Fitzgerald ’55 made the Daisy Chain on the lawn in front of McIver Building her sophomore year: “The daisies were connected by making a slit in a daisy stem and poking the stem of the next daisy through it. The chain was quite bulky, a good four inches in diameter.”
When did the tradition end? Around 1969-1970, several years after the University became co-educational – yet a Daisy Chain remained a key part of April’s Reunion for many years.
And today’s students have a daisy tradition of their own: each new UNCG student receives a daisy at first-year student orientation. Some choose to place theirs at the Minerva statue for good luck, a nod to another relatively new campus tradition.
“Sometimes I think that folks may have a mistaken idea of what the Woman’s College era was really like,” says Sue Medley ’65. “The photos of classmates wearing white dresses and walking through the Daisy Chain appear to portray genteel maidens of long ago.”
“These same young women were encouraged by our professors to speak out and stand up for our rights, especially the rights of minorities. We participated in protests for civil rights here in Greensboro at Woolworth’s and Tate Street. We worked in campaigns for the rights of women also to be treated with equality,” she recounts. “As our classmates graduated, they went on to be scientists, educators, lawyers, writers, and so many more professionals. We hope that our era helped to create the foundation for the wonderful university we have today.”