On October 5th 1853, Horace Mann delivered his inaugural address to three thousand spectators converging on an Antioch campus then still in the making. Horace’s wife, Mary Mann, described the throng as “a motley multitude that would have made a splendid show if their costumes were as brilliant as they were various.” In appreciation, Horace delivered a two hour address, which the prominent Unitarian clergyman T. Starr King described as containing enough inspiration to make a college flourish in the Sahara.
154 years later, we’ve still got the costumes, the motley multitude, and the college that’s flourishing in Saharan conditions. And on October 5th 2007, we partied like it was 1853 all over again.
Founders Day 2007 kicked off with a speech in the Inn by Jim Malarkey, Professor of Humanities at Antioch University, entitled “The Dazzling Vision and Relentless Passion of the Founders.” Shortly after, the silk screening group got to work on its mission to cloth the entire campus in Antiochian uniform. Old clothes turned art through the DIY application of slogans and symbols. So much for wearing your heart on your sleeve; on Founders Day, community members wore their values on their bandanas, pants, skirts, and underwear.
By 4 p.m., students, staff, faculty, alumni and townspeople had assembled on the stoop, filling the air with shouts, signs and music as energy ran high. In the upper reaches of the air bobbed Horace Mann himself, immortalized as an eleven foot papier-mâché puppet, recommissioned from a Bread and Puppet Theatre leftover. Anywhere you looked that day –provided you looked high enough– you could find Horace, benevolently presiding over affairs with a wry, proud look on his face.
After a few words on the logistics of the parade, the community was launched from the stoop, marching towards Yellow Springs and bringing the carnival atmosphere with them. Chants broke out: “Non-Stop! Antioch!” “Who’s the Man? Horace Mann!” as well as several choruses of “Happy Birthday” sung with off-key enthusiasm. Horace himself led the parade down Xenia Avenue, surrounded by signs and banners reading, “Antioch College and Yellow Springs: 155 More Years of Partnership” “Happy Birthday Antioch!” “Don’t let it die! Save Antioch College!” “Antioch Alive!” and scores of other sentiments echoed in the voices of all participants.
As the crowd marched into town, spilling off the reserved sidewalks, they were met with appreciative honking, cheering and general support from the village. Many Yellow Springs residents joined in, snapping pictures and chanting along. Elizabeth, a resident who published her pictures of the parade on www.yscommons.com recalled “I heard shouts and singing as I rode my bike across Xenia Avenue…looking down the street, I saw about 100 people—young, old, in-between—walking and carrying signs. ‘It’s a parade!’”
A turn into Corry Street, and the parade wound its way back to the stoop. There, former professor Jim Rose read Horace Mann’s 1859 Commencement address to the assembled crowd. This was followed by Steven Duffy reading a letter from Art Dole, a ‘46 alum related to Horace Mann with a history of Antioch grads in the family. When Duffy proclaimed (in Dole’s words) “And my granddaughter will be applying to Antioch next year,” a cheer rose up from those assembled crowd. When asked what Founders Day meant to him, Duffy simply said, “It’s the day to celebrate Antioch’s legacy.”
The speeches were followed immediately by the arrival of the three by three foot birthday cake, spanning an entire picnic table, donated by Alumni Association/Alumni Relations office. Aside from the sheer deliciousness of such a monstrosity, watching Main Building get devoured was incredibly satisfying.
From there, the carnival took over the day, featuring booths for everything from Consensual Kissing to Fortune Telling. Karaoke provided background music as a good-sized crowd of community members covered each other in Antioch Ink, played games of “Pin the Blame on the Student,” contributed to the “Why We Stay” zine, guessed “Where in the World Is Steve Lawry?” and decorated the walk with chalk drawings until late in the afternoon. Student Nick Chojnowski described it as “An eclectic celebration of Antioch, past, present and future.”
Carnival turned to Cabaret Horace at 8 p.m. in the theatre building. A product of the Collaborate, Create and Perform class taught by Louise Smith, Cabaret Horace featured an open mic as well as a series of skits, brainstormed by the theatre class. Jill Becker’s improvisational dance class performed two pieces, Trivia with Beth was unleashed on the entire audience and various sketches around toxicity, community, and other Antiochian themes were played to the enthusiastic applause of all assembled. The cabaret ended with a Rod Serling spoof that turned into a zombie dance party to nothing other than Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”
The night ended with Horace’s Wake, a dance party, which unfortunately was as dead as Horace himself. Still, Founders Day was a certainly wild success. Alumnus Rowan Kaiser described it as stunning, saying “I’d seen the creative and joyous process of Antiochians when I was a student, but I’d never seen it in such a way that the ‘us’ was all of Antioch, trying to touch the world.” With the enthusiasm and energy showed last Friday, one can only imagine what Homecoming will be like with the infusion of alums and board members. One thing’s for sure: Horace won’t have anything to be ashamed of.