Friday, Feb. 6, Brewer Dining Hall will serve a unique treat—birthday cake, honoring Union’s 192nd year. The university’s birthday was Feb. 3, but the party was postponed so it could also kick off the spring semester.
The festivities will begin with a special tribute in chapel and continue with university president Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver and his wife Susie hosting a celebration at 11:30 in the dining hall. In addition to cake, there will be balloons, Buster the Bulldog and Union memorabilia from the archives on display. Throughout the morning, students can also respond to trivia questions on Union’s social media, and those who answer correctly will be entered to win prizes given away during the celebration.
An annual birthday celebration is something Union faculty and staff hope to perpetuate as a reminder of the legacy current students represent.
“So many times I think students miss that they’re part of a bigger story and a piece in a much bigger picture of God’s plan,” said Josh Clarke, director of alumni relations. “In the end we’re all connected because we’re part of the same legacy.”
That legacy includes a history of community and several of the same traditions still carried on today. For instance, the howdy party began over 50 years ago on the old campus as something called “see you at the circle.”
“When we take groups of alumni to the old campus during homecoming, they always talk about ‘see you at the circle’. They started the tradition of gathering together to begin a semester that we still do,” Clarke said.
The legacy also includes many stories of God’s faithfulness to the Union community despite repeated devastation and disruption to the physical campus. In 1912, a fire destroyed much of the property including many school records. In 1975, the campus was uprooted and moved to its current location, and in 2008 a tornado caused millions of dollars in damage.
“The legacy isn’t in bricks and mortar, but in God’s people doing God’s work. We just wanted everyone to be reminded of God’s faithfulness,” Clarke said.
Ideally, celebrating Union’s birthday will be a way to look forward in hope as well, not just a way to look backward in thankfulness, staff said.
“When the university was started, there were men that had a vision for Christian higher education and how that could affect change in the world, and we get to carry on with that vision,” said Karen Taylor, associate director for the office of student leadership and engagement. “Besides, who doesn’t love a birthday party?”
The last time birthday cake was baked for Union’s birthday was 22 years ago when the school turned 175. Students and faculty baked and iced a 175- foot long cake in an unsuccessful attempt to beat the world record. The cake took 26 hours to bake, cost $1,800 dollars and made 5,120 slices.