The Moundbuilding Ceremony

The Mound and the Ceremony Behind It

By Kasey (Dumler) Griffith ’01

“I propose the inauguration of a new college custom, absolutely unique among all the colleges of the world. This ceremony is to be known as ‘The Building of the Mound.’ Nobody but Mound-builders can build mounds. So no other college has now, or is ever likely to have such a custom. It is highly appropriate to Moundbuilders, but would have little meaning to others. There is a decided advantage, I think, in having at least one custom that is absolutely distinctive of this institution. So many of our customs are copied, not only by us, but by a thousand other colleges. Such customs, being mere imitations, come to have little significance. But I challenge any one to point to a college that has anything like what is proposed in the building of the Mound.”

Dean Leroy Allen spoke those words at the first regular assembly of the year on September 8, 1927. Later on that day, the ceremony that sets Southwestern apart from any other college in the nation was founded.

1927 Moundbuilding CeremonyDean Allen proposed the ceremony at the morning chapel, and that evening, students and faculty gathered around the proposed spot to inaugurate the tradition. Torches led the procession up the hill, around Richardson Hall, and stopped on the north side. The band serenaded the group along their path.

Dean Allen placed the first stone and then student body president Joe Neville dedicated the Mound. Difficulty soon arose when the crowd attempted to place their stones.

Trying to place them all at once, stones started flying through the air, in an attempt to sail over the heads and onto the Mound. However, only one “casualty” resulted from the chaos - Donald Teed had the unfortunate job of shoveling mortar into the pile when a rock struck his head. He only received a cut, but his head was bandaged for the rest of the ceremony.

The Mound in 1952

Speaking at the ceremony was Dewey Short, professor of philosophy. He would later move to Springfield, Mo., to become a pastor, and eventually, a Congressman. During one election against Franklin Roosevelt, Short was considered as a vice-presidential nominee for the Republicans. The former SC professor was even credited with coining the phrase, “That man in the White House,” referring to FDR.

At the bottom of the Mound, an iron box was placed. Included in the box was a list of all school alumni, a college catalog, copies of the student newspaper and yearbook, absence regulations, and a “fake” check for $1,000,000, drawn on the State Bank of Winfield in favor of the 1927 student council.

2016 Moundbuilding Ceremony

The Mound tradition continued in its original location until 1962, when it was determined that the Mound had to be moved. The spot the Mound occupied was deemed a perfect location for the new Darbeth Fine Arts building. On September 7, 1962, the Mound was moved down campus, in front of Mossman Hall, where the Moundbuilding tradition continues every fall at the start of the school year.

“The building of the Mound is a type of tradition created out of whole cloth by the fertile brain of one who long ago fell in love with Southwestern and its ideals,” wrote Allen in a 1943 Collegian article. “As we build into the mound of loyalty, the rocks bearing our names or initials, so by building our hearts and lives into the institution, we can gradually make Southwestern, not the largest, but the finest college in the land.”

Build a life

Build a life

Students are what make Student Life happen!

From carnivals to concerts, from Sutton Center to Campus Life, the Office of Student Affairs is available for you, the student.

learn more about student life