Estimating the birthday party crowd at more than 15,000, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch highlighted Washington University’s gala 150th Birthday party in a long, colorful feature story published Sept. 15. “No one could have wished for a happier 150th birthday party,” suggested the PD.
This article originally ran in the News section of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday, Sept. 15, 2003. Republished with permission from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch — Sept. 15, 2003
Washington U. throws party to mark 150 years
From staff reports
No one could have wished for a happier 150th birthday party.
More than 15,000 students, faculty, alumni and neighbors – and some of their children – turned out Sunday to help Washington University celebrate its sesquicentennial. The party was two years in the making, with more than 200 events to watch.
There were concerts by student musicians as well as the St. Louis Symphony. There were Internet games and modern and African-American dances. There was poetry, the history of the Lewis and Clark expedition and a re-enactment of the infamous Dred Scott trial.
In the morning, the university unveiled big balloons that read “150” – only to have their “5” fly away.
In the afternoon, a plane flew overhead as students dropped little parachutes from the roof of Brookings Hall.
Frozen custard wizard Ted Drewes, class of 1951, dished up something he called a “Ses-Quete” concrete. “It tastes like a combination of pistachio, vanilla and cherry with chocolate chips,” said Patti Bubash, class of 1996, with a master’s degree in education.
The cherry was said to pay homage to George Washington, of White House, dollar bill and chopped-down-cherry-tree fame. He also is the university’s namesake.
More than 10,000 of the “concretes” were served, according to officials, who said visitors also consumed more than 15,000 meals of hot dogs, tofu dogs or sausages.
Washington University is where researchers are working to crack the secrets of cancer, plant life and the genome. On this day, however, much of its efforts were aimed at lighter targets.
An overflow crowd of youngsters watched as law school students put on their version of the trial of the Three Bears v. Goldilocks.
From the point of view of the bears, it seems that Goldilocks was not a very nice little girl. She was charged with trespassing, breaking and entering – and eating their porridge and breaking Babe E. Bear’s chair.
“She did all this intentionally, and without permission,” charged F. Lee Bearly, the plaintiffs’ attorney.
Said Defense attorney Porridge “Porry” Mason: “These charges against Goldilocks are bear-faced lies.”
“Objection,” said F. Lee. “That’s a terrible joke.”
The jurors, all children, didn’t buy Goldilocks’ defense that the front door was open, the chair was already broken and she innocently fell asleep in bed.
The jury found her guilty and ordered her to pay for the chair.
Meanwhile, in a nearby science laboratory, university Chancellor Mark Wrighton wore a white laboratory coat as he performed chemistry tricks for two overflow crowds of youngsters.
“Does this look like a mad scientist doing an experiment?” he asked as he pulled a “rabbit” out of a beaker, changed yellow liquids into red and then into green, and froze a rose.
His big trick was setting a dollar bill on fire in a mixture of water and alcohol. It didn’t burn because the heat vaporized the water and not the bill. “Magic Mark” then proceeded to freeze the bill in liquid nitrogen and crush it with his hands.
“It gives people a sense that science is fun,” said Wrighton, who earned his doctorate in chemistry.
“Wash U. could have just done something for itself and the students,” said Amy Porterfield, 21, of Charles Town, W.Va., a senior studying religion and the classics. “But they made it special, and did a lot of stuff for the kids.”
From 1853 to 1905, the university was downtown. It moved to its current 169-acre Hilltop Campus in time to lease nine buildings to the 1904 World’s Fair. The lease money paid to build a bigger campus.
University lore has it that Brookings Hall took a year to recover from the smell of the fair’s drinks and cigar smoke.
Today, the university is spread over more than 2,200 acres on all of its sites, with more than 150 major buildings. Enrollment is more than 12,700 students, tuition is more than $28,000 per year and room and board adds another $9,000.
“We think we’re the right size,” said Chancellor Wrighton. “We want to grow in status.”
As for how much tuition might be in 10 years, magician Wrighton would not venture into fortune-telling too. “A little higher,” he answered.