Charles Nailen/The Hoya Since its first major win in 1907, basketball has long been an important part of GU’s athletic life.

Georgetown students may immediately think of the school’s basketball team or the movie The Exorcist when they hear the word “tradition.”

But many Hilltop traditions have been around much longer, since the school’s earliest days in the 1700s.

Today, THE HOYA takes a look at the forgotten traditions of the past and how they have collectively evolved into the Georgetown of today.

In the Beginning

The fundamental traditions of Georgetown can be found in John Carroll’s 1787 “Proposals for Establishing an Academy at George-Town, Patowmack-River, Maryland.” According to the proposal, the school would be open to “every class of citizens [and] students of every religious profession.”

It also claimed that “the price of tuition will be moderate.” While this may not seem to hold true today, some of Carroll’s other ideals were taken more seriously. For instance, in upholding its commitment to diversity, Georgetown was one of the first American universities to accept women. It was also the first U.S. institution to have a black president – Fr. Patrick Healy, S.J., the son of a plantation owner and a slave, who took office in 1873.

Georgetown’s first student, 13-year-old William Gaston, enrolled in 1791. Two years later, the school consisted of 60 students and seven faculty members. A typical day for one of Georgetown’s first students would consist of a 6 a.m. Mass, studying until 7:45 a.m. and class between 8:15 and 11:15 a.m. Dinner (lunch in 1700s terms) would follow, with a brief time for recreation. Afternoon classes took place between 2:15 and 4:45 p.m., followed by studying until 5:30, “supper” at 7 p.m. and finally night prayers at 8:30 p.m. Bedtime followed soon after.

Annual tuition at the time was a mere $44 with a room and board fee of $133. Even during this period, Georgetown had a good reputation. As Gaston noted in a letter at the time, “Our College has got a great reputation, from all quarters boys come to it.”

Over the course of the next two centuries, several academic departments were added to John Carroll’s academy on the Hilltop. In 1851, Georgetown’s Medical Department was established, followed by the Georgetown School of Law in 1870. Georgetown Hospital began accepting patients in 1898. In 1903 Georgetown’s School of Nursing was founded – later to become the School of Nursing and Health Studies in 2001. Fr. Edmund A. Walsh, S.J., established the School of Foreign Service in 1919 with the aim of promoting “international peace through education,” and in 1955 Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business was established.

Representing New Interests

With the creation of the new colleges came new students with a variety of interests. Georgetown began to welcome numerous student clubs and organizations in 1830, starting with the Philodemic Society. In 1852, students founded the Dramatic Association of Georgetown College, which would be later known as Mask & Bauble. With so many Georgetown graduates in the world, the Society of the Alumni of Georgetown College was established and held its first alumni reunion in 1880. The Yard, a form of student government for the College, and the Athletic Association were created in 1891 to represent student concerns.

According to the GUSA Web site, “The Yard . was organized to oversee all sporting and leisure activities at the university . In 1919, the first Student Council with non-athletic roles was formed, comprised of representatives from each class.”

The first issue of the university’s oldest newspaper, The Hoya, was published in 1920. In 1969 the first issue of The Georgetown Voice was published. Since then, the university has seen the addition of the The Georgetown Independent and the now defunct The New PressOther groups range from the Georgetown rifle squad – which won the national championship in 1938 – to Students of Georgetown Incorporated, the largest student run business in the country, which was founded in 1972. (For a list of more Georgetown clubs and their founding dates, see side box “Historical Highlights: Georgetown’s Clubs Through the Years”).

But not all developments were peaceful. Georgetown witnessed its first protest in 1833, when students revolted against the expulsion of a student who had visited “saloons” on a field trip to the Capitol. In 1850, students rebelled against the dismissal of three members of the Philodemic Society who were being punished for meeting on a Sunday.

Two hundred and twenty years later, in 1970, 60 percent of the student body boycotted classes in protest of then-President Richard Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War. The Kent State killings also galvanized student activists to protest in 1970. Angered by a proposed tuition hike in 1973, students organized a “Lemonstration.” They symbolized their frustration by piling up hundreds of lemons outside of the Hall of Cardinals in Healy Hall while the Board of Directors met inside.

The Sporting Life

While students have no problem expressing their varied views, they nearly always concur on their love of Hoya sports teams. University President John J. DeGioia even donned Georgetown’s blue and gray as a player on the football team during his time as a student here.

Georgetown actually began its sports tradition almost a century before DeGioia took the field by playing its first intercollegiate baseball game in 1870. Four years later, the Georgetown College Football Association was established. In 1889, Georgetown competed in its first intercollegiate football game against rival University of Virginia, and in 1938, Georgetown football had a three-year winning streak. The streak was short-lived, however, because intercollegiate football was canceled for financial reasons. An intercollegiate lacrosse team was organized in its absence. Georgetown football did not reemerge until 1964. Two years ago, the team upgraded to the Patriot League.

Crew, one of Georgetown’s most popular sports, began when John Agar founded the Georgetown University Rowing Association in 1876. He selected the colors blue and gray to celebrate the unity between Georgetown students from the North and the South. In 1900, Georgetown won its first crew race against the Navy at Annapolis.

Arguably the most popular sport at Georgetown began on the Hilltop in 1907 when the Georgetown basketball team defeated the University of Virginia. Georgetown’s basketball team participated in its first national NCAA championship in 1943 and has continued its tradition of athletic greatness with future NBA standouts who play for it now. Men’s Basketball Head Coach Craig Esherick (CAS ’78, LAW ’82) was a member of the team in 1978, and Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) led the team to victory in the basketball championship in 1984. Allen Iverson, now a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, was a star player for Georgetown basketball in 1995, earning 926 points in a single season.

Prestigious Visitors

Georgetown’s strong tradition in sports is rivaled by its long-time association with national politics.

In 1797, then-President George Washington spoke on the steps of Old North, and in 1861, Union soldiers from the Sixty-Ninth Regiment from New York congregated in front of Old South where Abraham Lincoln had come to review the troops stationed at Georgetown College.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt attended a student production of “The Tavern,” the first play at Georgetown that featured women on stage, in 1934. President Eisenhower came to Georgetown for his Inaugural Ball, which was held in the newly opened McDonough Gym in 1953, and Bob Hope attended the groundbreaking of the Reiss Science Building in 1962.

The university has also never failed to draw famous figures non-political walks of life. The Grateful Dead performed at Homecoming in 1970, and Warner Bros. filmmakers came to the Hilltop to film The Exorcist in 1972 . Six years later, Bruce Springsteen brought his E Street sound to Gaston Hall.

Other famous figures to grace the Hilltop include Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, Billy Joel and President Bill Clinton (SFS ’68).

Symbols of Spirit

While many students are familiar with the Georgetown seal only as something that one should avoid walking on if one wants to graduate in four years, it also has a storied history.

The Georgetown seal, created in 1798, includes 16 stars, representing the number of states in the Union at the time of Georgetown’s establishment. The phrase “Utraque Unum,” which refers to the oneness of Gentile and Jew in Christ. The Latin inscription along the border of the Georgetown seal translates to “on the banks of the Potomac in aryland.” Following the Civil War, Georgetown adopted the colors of the north and the south as its official colors to symbolize the uniting of the country after the devastating conflict.

Almost 100 years later, in 1894, Robert Collier wrote Georgetown’s alma mater, “Sons of Georgetown.” Sung annually at Convocation and alumni functions, the alma mater speaks of Georgetown’s lasting tradition; after all the schools became coeducational in the 1960s, the title and first line were changed to “Hail, oh Georgetown.”

Collier’s song is just as relevant and vibrant today as it was when it was first conceived. As the chorus says, “Wave her colors ever/Furl her standard never/But raise it high/And proudly cry/`May Georgetown live forever.'”

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