Welcome to the 148th annual Ivies, perhaps the most sacred tradition that Bowdoin knows. And yet, it almost wasn’t. The first Ivy Day was held in the fall, on October 26, 1865, when the junior class assembled before the chapel to plant an ivy and recite the Class Ode.

For eight years after that, there was no Ivy Day to speak of, according to a 1976 Orient article. 
What would have happened if our grand tradition had never been revived? Would Bowdoin have become what it is today? Would we have devised some replacement for our annual festival of inebriated catharsis?

Probably. Whenever Ivies comes along, people like to say that Bowdoin becomes, if only for one week, what other colleges are like year-round. Maybe this is true, maybe it’s not—so long as we are students of this College, we can’t know for sure.  All we know is that Bowdoin isn’t easy (grade inflation aside), and hope that our weekend of coordinated debauchery will make it much easier to re-enter H-L come reading period. Most NESCAC schools indulge in some similar celebration—Nelly and Yeasayer graced the Tufts campus last weekend, and Macklemore has made appearance at Williams, Amherst, and Colby in the past few weeks. When Guster and Hoodie Allen take the stage on Whittier Field tomorrow, students will indulge in bacchanalian revelry like they always do--but this year, it can’t help but seem particularly well-deserved. 

The liberal arts has taken something of a beating this academic year. Months before the NAS report was released, a profusion of articles took aim at the plight of our purportedly aimless generation, deriding us for our reverence of a system of higher education from which we are promised few returns. “The state of people in their twenties” became a subject for popular debate, prompting Nathan Heller—a well-seasoned twenty-something himself—to defend our demographic in the pages of The New Yorker. “They are moved by dreams of adult happiness, but the form of those dreams is as serendipitous as ripples in a dune of sand,” Heller wrote, back in January. “Where you start out—rich or poor, rustic or urbane—won’t determine where you end up, perhaps, but it will determine how you get there. The twenties are when we turn what Frank O’Hara called ‘sharp corners.’” 

Bowdoin’s curriculum prepares us to do all manner of things, or to do nothing—it is, for better or for worse, what we make of it. The same goes for Ivies.
But given the year we have had, maybe it would be fitting to take this year’s Ivies as a celebration of the liberal arts, and of the feckless, aimless, twenty-somethings who believe in their purpose.

After all, Ivies began as a celebration of youth—back in 1865, the juniors had to invite the outgoing seniors to take part in their fun. Then, the seniors celebrated by walking to their last chapel service, after smoking a peace pipe together. Tomorrow, seniors will make their last pilgrimage to celebrate on the Brunswick Quad, after no doubt sharing some peace pipes of their own. The feelings of nostalgia that trek is sure to enjoin are a foundational part of the Ivies tradition. So goes the Ivy Ode: “Oft in the future—/ Life’s chilling winter—/ Here shall we glean / Youth’s sunny leaves; / Mem’ries will throng us / Like strains of music / Wafting their burden / From o’er the years.”