PHILADELPHIA –- Following a tradition that reaches back to 1916, Penn juniors will celebrate Hey Day 2012 on Wednesday, April 25, by donning red shirts, strutting along Locust Walk carrying canes and biting into straw hats.
A celebration that is unique to Penn, Hey Day marks the “moving up” of juniors to the senior class. This year’s event will begin with a class picnic, followed by the class procession to College Hall.
As in years past, Penn President Amy Gutmann is scheduled to meet the students at the steps of College Hall, where, before officially declaring the Class of 2013 seniors, she will likely give them “one final test.”
Students had better bone up on their class and campus history. Last year the questions went like this: “Question No. 1: Who is the founder of the University of Pennsylvania? Question No. 2: Who is your class president? Question No. 3: What is the name of your class?”
Then, as the students roared out their answers, Gutmann said, “You’ve passed. Now, by the power vested in me by the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, I hereby declare you, seniors. Congratulations.”
University Archives provides two possible explanations for the odd name of the annual event. An article in the 1916 Pennsylvanian reported that the name "Hey Day" was chosen by a committee formed especially for the purpose of coming up with an appropriate title for the newly established Moving-Up Day.
An alternative claim, however, is that the name is a pun Eugene H. Southall, Class of 1916 and editor-in-chief of The Pennsylvanian, suggested. Well-acquainted with the phrase "the heyday of someone's career," Southall half-facetiously suggested that “Straw Hat Day be known henceforth as Heyday and that the then scattered events of importance be concentrated in one day, which would represent a sort of apogee or heyday of college life and activities. To my great surprise, the general idea of Heyday somehow caught on.”
In 1931, Class Day activities were folded into Hey Day, including the reading of the Class History, Class Prophecy and Class Poem; the presentation of the Senior Honors Awards; and the announcement of those elected into various honorary societies.
In the decades since, however, Hey Day has become less formal and far more of an exuberant outdoor affair.