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Our Traditions

PumphandleSocial Engagement, Making a Difference. Since its founding, Knox has been known for being engaged with the world and with the important issues of the day. The Founders and early leaders were vocal participants in the antislavery movement. The College's original charter, granted in 1837, committed Knox to educating men and women of all financial means and of all races. Today, Knox is one of the most diverse liberal arts colleges in the nation.

Equality, Open Debate, Expressing Diverse Points of View. It's not a surprise that the College known for hosting the Lincoln-Douglas Debates--where Abraham Lincoln made one of his most impassioned arguments on the immorality of slavery--would continue to be a place where students and professors from wide-ranging political, social, economic, and cultural backgrounds spare with each other on an equally wide range of issues, both inside and outside the classroom.

Pumphandle. Each year since 1885, new and returning students kick off the school year with a tradition that introduces new faces and reunites old. On the afternoon before the first day of classes, students, faculty, and staff--some of them in wacky costumes--gather on the south lawn of Old Main. The president leads the welcoming line, shaking each person's hand in turn. Everyone shakes the hands of those who have gone before, and the line grows, snaking around the campus.

Bell TowerRinging the Bell. The ringing of the Old Main bell is another Knox tradition. Sitting atop historic Old Main, a huge bronze bell rings at the beginning and end of each class, as well as the beginning and end of each school year.

Honor Code. The Honor Code has been a fixture of the Knox educational experience ever since students, led by international student Ismat Kittani, established it in 1951. Kittani, who came to Knox from Iraq, later became president of the United Nations General Assembly. Today the Honor Code continues to anchor the sense of responsibility and self-direction that is central to intellectual life at Knox.

FootballThe Bronze Turkey. The trophy is awarded to the winner of the annual Knox-Monmouth football game, one of the oldest rivalries in the country. First played in 1888, the rivalry has grown quite heated, and the Bronze Turkey has occasionally been "appropriated" by means other than winning the football game. As a result, each year's winner usually displays a replica of the Turkey and keeps the original in an undisclosed location.

Songs. Two songs duel it out as the "official" song of Knox. But whether you prefer the Knox "Fight Song" or the Knox Hymn, you'll likely know the words to both by the time you graduate.

International Fair. Food, culture, and entertainment from around the world take center stage at Knox College's annual International Fair, a celebration of the diversity of the world that comes to Knox. Sponsored by the student International Club, the Fair is a chance for Knox students from nearly 50 countries to highlight their cultures with arts and crafts, live dance and music performances, and unique cuisine. More than 1,000 visitors travel to campus each January to enjoy the many events surrounding the fair.

Founders Day Cake. Each year on February 15, another candle is added to the Knox College Birthday Cake to celebrate the founding of the College in 1837. It's quite a sight to behold as students gather to enjoy a cupcake in celebration of the occasion.

Prairie Burns. Prairie fire is not just the nickname of our athletic Prairie Burnteams. It's also a yearly tradition at Knox. Each spring, the Knox community gathers for the annual prairie burn at Green Oaks, the 700-acre (285 hectare) biological research area and the second site in the nation where a tallgrass prairie was restored. Burning the prairie replicates nature's method of renewing growth and maintaining biodiversity in Illinois's classic prairie habitats.

Flunk DayFlunk Day. A campus-wide surprise party marks the arrival of spring for Knox students. The party's date, and even the identities of its organizers, is kept secret until the early morning, when the entire campus is awakened by the shouts of students running through campus and the ringing of the Old Main bell. All classes are cancelled--and exam dates and paper deadlines postponed--for a day of music, games, food, and fun.