The word “Go!” is screamed loudly, jolting you to attention and starting a rush of adrenaline. You begin sprinting as fast as you can, using all your strength to push the wooden frame on wheels in front of you. With the help of three others, you push a bed and its rider across the bricks of Memorial Walkway in an effort to become the winners of the Lehigh Bed Races.
This year marks the sesquicentennial year of Lehigh’s existence. With the 150-year birthday celebration comes a multitude of events geared toward celebrating the university’s history and traditions.
According to Lehigh’s website, the university was founded in 1865 when Asa Packer, president of the Lehigh Valley Railroad company, donated $500,000 to build a university to provide “intellectual and moral improvement” for the valley’s men. Over time, the school developed several traditions including bed races, The Rally, Founder’s Day and “The Rivalry” — the Lehigh versus Lafayette game, which is also the most-played football rivalry in the country.
However, aside from our founder’s name and the popular campus events mentioned, what do we really know about where these traditions came from, or even why they developed? Do we know why we’re practicing them?
Our history gives us context for where we are as a university now, and our traditions show us what has been valued over the years. When we
Though it is important to have history and be aware of it, it’s as equally important to value it. It’s necessary to know where we came from and learn about our traditions. In doing so, we can celebrate where we started, appreciate where we are now and understand how history can impact the future. With the good comes some bad, and we are responsible for preventing ourselves from making the same mistake twice.
Oral tradition and communication aren’t just limited to understanding our oldest history and origins. Every year, a new class enters Lehigh, bringing an influx of people with fresh ideas, values and morality. By the time we reach our senior year of college at Lehigh, we’ve learned a lot along the way – we’ve seen the upsides and downsides of Lehigh. However, far too often this knowledge is only passed down to the class below us. It is essential for us to communicate with the newest classes each year so we can pass down this knowledge.
What are the implications of the fact that Lehigh has only been coed for fewer than 50 years? Or that we have encountered more than one racially-charged hate crime in the past 10 years, but have failed to prevent them from happening again? Though these incidents have occurred in recent years and not at the 150 year mark, they’re as equally important to acknowledge and be aware of as knowing how Lehigh even came into existence.
Lehigh has been around for 150 years – a huge milestone in our university’s life. It is important for students to be taught what those 150 years look like, but it’s as equally important for us to care.
Beyond just understanding Lehigh’s history, it’s as important to understand where we as people come from. Talking to our grandparents and other elders in our family allows us to appreciate the struggles our family has gone through, and celebrate the great accomplishments we have had. Communication and oral tradition is all around us, and we need to be curious and inquire about it. In doing so, we can only learn more about ourselves.
With the sesquicentennial year celebration, go out of your way to ask about Lehigh’s history. Find professors who have been here for a while and inquire about what they have seen change. Learn about why we host The Rally every year for the incoming freshman class, and appreciate the good and the bad our school has gone through. But look beyond just Lehigh and find the value of history and tradition in your other aspects of life.