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“A spirited Wooster tradition lives on”: six decades of filling the Arch

Abby Everidge

Staff Writer

Zoe Covey

Features Editor

In 1961, Kauke Hall was extensively updated and the famous Arch was built. The Arch was meant to “open up Kauke Hall to expedite the flow of student traffic throughout the campus and to allow those approaching it from the south to view the depth of the campus through the archway,” according to Bogner Construction Company. Though originally appreciated for its beauty and iconic look, tying the campus together, in less than a decade, it came to mean so much more to students.

The College of Wooster website states, “Legend has it that if the Arch can be filled to the top with snow during the night, blocking the main doors, classes will be canceled the next day.” Although the class cancellation aspect of this tradition is up for debate, filling the Arch still remains a large part of campus culture to this day. So where exactly did the tradition of filling the Arch with snow come from?

“While no one is certain of the true origin, John Finn, director of public information, said he believes the rumor originated in an edict issued by school administration, a member of which once reportedly said classes would be canceled only after snow reached a height to fill the Arch.” said a 2007 article for The Daily Record.

When asked whether this college tradition has declined over time, Alumni Mark Morey ’77 stated, “It seems to me that the event is larger today, since it now can be better documented and posted for many people to see and then become a part of. I enjoyed seeing a video of it on the website last year — which is something we could only dream of in the mid 1970’s.” 

Morey believes that this tradition will continue at the College. “The tradition has all of the right elements: it is unique to the campus (the Arch itself), it is unique to the season and it is a unifying event across the student body.”

While filling the Arch may seem like a quirky and harmless tradition, sometimes it has been met with resisitance, such as in 2007. when the police were called to the scene. According to The Daily Record, three students were arrested due to disorderly conduct after the Wooster Police Department was summoned by campus security. Kurt Holmes, dean of students at the time, was the recipient of so many calls from students distressed by the police presence that he came to campus at 11 p.m. to try to negotiate a solution. The police eventually left, and students did fill the Arch. Holmes made the announcement that school was closed the next day, perhaps the last time that Wooster canceled classes after the Arch was filled.

2014 marked the next occasion enough snow was on the ground to fill the Arch after a seven year dry spell. According to The Wooster Voice, dining services provided hot chocolate for students and the jovial energy was palpable. The positivity of the students never waned, even when they were asked to remove snow from all other Kauke entryways, as they had accidentally trapped people in the building. Unfortunately, classes were not canceled, and this was communicated to students through an email from then-President Grant Cornwell, who said, “The Arch is filled. A spirited Wooster tradition lives on. As a reward for your industry, we want to confirm that you will have further opportunities for learning this morning in classes.” 

Last year, students filled the Arch once more on Jan. 14, 2018, and another attempt was made this year on Jan. 21, though the snow did not make it to the top. These continued efforts to keep a campus tradition alive show how dedicated Wooster students are to the history of the College.

The iconic Arch appears on lots of College of Wooster merchandise, rendered everywhere from posters to t-shirts, and is recognizable to many. “Every second or third tour I give, visitors already know about the tradition,” said Saeed Husain ’21, a student tour guide at the College. “Visitors are excited to be in the Arch after hearing about it because it’s a very prominent tradition of the College.”

However, there is another aspect of filling the Arch that most students do not consider: the effects it has on staff on campus.

Director of Campus Grounds Beau Mastrine stated, “If there is enough snow to fill the Arch, that means we have been hard at work battling the snow on campus.”

With each snow and ice event on campus, Mastrine stated, “We take care of all the buildings with hand shoveling. We plow and salt 11 miles of sidewalk and 20 acres of parking lot. It’s one extra thing that needs to be handled to keep the campus safe” Leading up to the attempted Arch filling on Jan. 22, Campus Grounds had to deal with such events nearly every day.

Mastrine does believe this tradition will last, but also shared concern for the structural integrity of the building. “Putting snow in the Arch does damage the building. No matter how careful we are it happens. Removing it requires heavy machinery to move the snow. As the snow sits in the arch, it melts and refreezes, making it a solid block of snow.”

The tradition of filling the Kauke Hall Arch continues to bring students together and remains a fun fact on perhaps every single tour of the College. As of now, this tradition does not seem to be going anywhere.

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