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Roanoke College Celebrates Founder’s Day

Photo Courtesy of Roanoke College
Photo Courtesy of Roanoke College

By Julie Stout


On Nov. 19, Roanoke College hosted an annual tradition, Bittle’s Bash. On this day students faculty and staff join together to commemorate the birthday of the college’s first president and founder, David Bittle. The celebration had many fun aspects, most of which have become trademarks of the History Department and Historical Society’s annual event.

The festivities began on Tuesday evening. Students could take pictures in the Atrium in front of a green screen and could choose to take an old time photo be with either Dr. Bittle or in front of the Administration building. Then on Wednesday during classes, students dressed up from a historical era. Pilgrims, woman suffragists, and colonial men strode across campus. The next event took place in Commons. Dr. Miller and Dr. Leeson of the History Department hosted trivia. The trivia was based purely on Roanoke College’s history and for the student who got the most answered correct there was a gift card prize.

After trivia, the community gathered on the back quad for a bonfire and hot chocolate provided by SGA as well as free horse drawn carriage rides. The Roanotes were at the bonfire performing a collection of songs that fed into the festive mood. Shortly after, President Maxey joined the bonfire, leading the group in singing “Happy Birthday” to Dr. Bittle. President and Mrs. Maxey then took their place in the horse drawn carriage and allowed two students to join them as they rode up to the cemetery where Dr. Bittle is buried. Students and faculty followed behind the carriage with lanterns and many organizations carried banners for a completion sponsored by The Historical Society. Salem PD escorted the carriage and students to the cemetery as well as blocked off the parade route to ensure the safety of the mass.

One at the cemetery, the group gathered around Dr. Bittle’s tomb as Dr. Miller said a few words explaining the accomplishments of Dr. Bittle and pointed out other important Roanoke College affiliates buried in the cemetery as well and also placed a wreath by Dr. Bittle’s tomb stone. After a cue from Dr. Miller, Dr. Bittle himself made an appearance (Dr. Willingham) and carried on a charming conversation with President Maxey. Dr. Bittle noted the changes in the school, namely the gender diversity and made many Lutheran jokes in the spirit of the college’s religious affiliation.  Looking for an Echo then led the group in the singing of the alma mater.

The festivities carried on once back to campus. In the Atrium there was karaoke and refreshments. Students and faculty both graced the stage giving performances of classic hits, modern songs, Disney feel-good’s, and any other musical variation desired. The Atrium was packed with students enjoying chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, soda, and a cash bar for those old enough to drink while dancing and enjoying the plethora of karaoke performances.

This is a tradition that inspires the community to come together to remember the past, celebrate the present, and strive for the future. Students wait year round for this celebration filled with horses, cemeteries and professors singing karaoke.