April 01, 2011
Photo by Christian Kebbel
With spring semester well underway, the student body is starting the annual Fox Day watch. On an unspecified day any time between now and the last day of classes, President Lewis Duncan will place a 3-foot-high, 300-pound statue of a seated fox on Mills lawn. The arrival of this whimsical creature will herald a day free of classes, tests and papers that always proves a welcome relief as final exams draw ever closer.
“Fox Day is a wonderful Rollins tradition,” said Brynne Piotrowski (Class of 2011), a member of the Fox Day committee. “As a student, I definitely appreciate the break from classes and I love the element of surprise that exists; however, one of the best aspects of Fox Day is how it brings the campus together.”
This sense of togetherness is the reason Fox Day began back in 1956 under President Hugh McKean. After having students tell him they wanted to be able to do something together as a college, McKean thought back to his early childhood in Pennsylvania. His father used to tell him that the evening mist was “foxes cooking their supper,” and he grew to associate foxes with family gatherings.
Conveniently enough, Rollins already had a fox of its own. Early in 1934, President Hamilton Holt received two statues from Senator Murray Sams. One of these decorations was a cat and the other was the Fox that we know so well today. When the cat statue was destroyed beyond hope of repair, McKean stashed the Fox away for safe keeping.
That first spring when McKean took the Fox out of hiding and placed him on the horseshoe, he invited everyone to spend the day together. Most of the activities were held on campus, as they would remain throughout McKean’s administration. Treasure hunts and square dances took the place of classes and were followed by a luau-styled Hawaiian dinner that was the 1950s-equivalent of our now-traditional barbecue. And McKean’s only stipulation for continuing Fox Day each year was that everyone attend the 10 p.m. chapel vespers service.
Even traditions are subject to some mischief.
In 1960, the campus was both pleased and perplexed by the arrival of the Fox while President McKean was en route from California to New York. Despite McKean’s absence, one of the deans declared this faux Fox Day to be official. A few years later, McKean started printing an official Fox Day Proclamation, a part of the tradition that remains intact today.
Another fake Fox Day took place in 1976; however, that one was certainly not adopted, despite the convincing clay replica of the beloved statue.
To many students’ dismay, Fox Day disappeared from 1970 to 1977 under President Jack Critchfield. “Critchfield was pressured to suspend Fox Day for a while,” said College Historian and Weddell Professor Emeritus of American History Jack Lane. “We were desperately trying to erase Rollins's reputation as play school, and, at the time, Fox Day seemed frivolous. As I look back now, [stopping the tradition] seems foolish but then it seemed reasonable.”
Fortunately, Fox Day returned under President Thaddeus Seymour, who had tried to start a similar tradition at his previous institution, Wabash College. When Seymour heard about Rollins’ seemingly lost Fox Day tradition, he took it upon himself to resurrect it.
“I arranged my first one while still in Indiana, working with Fred Hicks, who was then the executive vice president of Rollins,” said Seymour. “I didn't assume office until July, 1978, but I worked it out with Fred to hold Fox Day that May, and I flew in for the celebration. It was one of the happiest days of my life. [During my time,] students stayed around campus. The mass exodus to the beach came later.”
Although Rollins did not initially provide transportation for these sunny excursions, students had been trekking to the beach long before the Fox’s first appearance. During McKean’s administration, many of the students spent the day at a beach house owned by Rollins. Dubbed The Pelican, the two-story house was located on New Smyrna Beach and could be used by students, faculty and guests throughout the year, as long as they left a fifty cent tip for the maid.
This year, the Fox Day frolicking will return to one of the College’s former stomping grounds. Following new restrictions implemented by Cocoa Beach, Rollins has changed destinations. Busses will now take students to a favorite locale of Rollins students past, New Smyrna Beach.
“New Smyrna offers a beach as well as a slew of activities for those who don’t want to just lie in the sand,” said Brent Turner, director of student involvement and leadership.
President Lewis Duncan is hard at work behind the scenes, making preparations for this year’s Fox Day. Busses need booking and doughnuts will be ordered long before the chapel bell starts ringing to signal the Fox’s appearance. This is one tradition that is likely to endure and continue lending its cheer and camaraderie to students for years to come.
Olin Library has a wonderful new display about the history of Fox Day, including pictures, articles and other memorabilia unique to Rollins’ Fox Day. Please visit the lobby to view the display.
Learn more about Fox Day, watch the 2011 Fox Day Predictions video and become a fan of Fox Day on Facebook.
By Jennifer Ritter (Class of 2013)
Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.