This is Part 2 of a four-part series of articles pertaining to the George Mason University Class of 1968. The text is borrowed from SCRC’s exhibition “First Class: Mason ’68 and Beyond” currently on display through August 2018 in the SCRC Gallery.
The Class of ’68 laid the groundwork for two distinctly Mason traditions. Both the school colors and Mason Day began with the first class.
There have been quite a few differing explanations as to how George Mason University ended up with green and gold as its school colors. One often-cited theory is that they were chosen by a faculty member looking to design uniforms for the college’s first athletic teams. He thought green and gold looked good on a uniform. Another suggests Chancellor Thompson liked the green and gold holiday decorations his assistant chose for his office in December 1966 and decided Mason’s school colors should be green and gold. A third claims that the green bedroom and gold dining room at Gunston Hall were the inspiration. Finally, and perhaps most oddly, it has been suggested that George Mason himself suffered from gangrene, a disease which turns the toes green and yellow.
Actually, members of the Class of ’68 chose green and gold in a poll of the student body in February 1965. One of those who voted for the school colors was Ann Walker Sparks of the Class of ‘68. She recalled in a 2004 oral history interview that the majority of the students enrolled at George Mason in 1965 were from local high schools. Their selections for the school colors were motivated by local high school rivalries. No one wanted George Mason to have the colors belonging to their former high school rivals.
Mason Day evolved from the University of Virginia’s tradition of celebrating Founder’s Day on April 13, Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. George Mason College celebrated Founder’s Day, along with its parent institution since the early 1960s. Beginning in the mid-60s Mason observed “George Mason Day” on the day after Founder’s Day. The first George Mason Day on April 14, 1965 featured a brief program of lectures and speeches given by the faculty and administration. In 1967 it became a high-visibility event and expanded to include academic and service awards presentations, food, and an afternoon of field day-type physical activities. As Mason continued to develop its own unique identity, it moved away from the University’s tradition of observing Founder’s Day altogether and celebrated George Mason Day exclusively.
The 1968 George Mason Day featured a barbecue, the student/faculty softball game, a greased pig chase, tricycle races, a Hawaiian luau, the Miss GMC Contest, the tug-of-war, car smash, a dunk tank, human-powered “chariot races”, and other activities; many of these would continue to be part of later George Mason Days. Music was also introduced to George Mason Day. That afternoon a “Folk Fest”, featuring a host of singers and acoustic guitar groups, took place on the Quadrangle. In later years George Mason Day expanded into a multi-day event with camping behind South Building (today’s Krug Hall), late night movies in the Lecture Hall, and live musical acts on Thursdays and Fridays.
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