Celebrating 90 Years Of 'Push'
Hard Work of 'Sophomore
Editor's note: For a high-res
digital file of the first "sophomore
push" committee of 1915, contact Marti Hobbes, at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (413) 585-2190.
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- The traditions of Smith College have
deep roots, and perhaps one of the oldest and most often
overlooked traditions is that of the Sophomore Push Committee,
otherwise known as "Push."
Founded officially in 1914, Push is a group of some 40 sophomores
whose duties during each year's Commencement weekend include
organizing seniors and alumnae for a parade, helping nervous
seniors pin their caps on moments before graduation, singing
songs specifically chosen for each reunion class and gently
pushing seniors off the steps of the college's library to
signify their entrance into the "real world.
Needless to say, they are busy women.
"Our job is basically to make seniors look good and
to make sure that everything runs smoothly," said Erika
Rodriguez, this year's head of Push. Rodriguez committed
to the position as a first-year student last year and served
as assistant head of Push in order to "learn the ropes" of
this complicated position. "During Senior Week, we sing
to alums, collaborate with junior ushers to alphabetize seniors
so that their name is called correctly, help guide alums
into the right places and run errands as well."
While certain duties have changed or disappeared altogether
-- such as the sophomore-led, hoop-rolling competition --
much has remained the same. Esther Wyman, who graduated from
Smith in 1911, reminisced about her experiences with Sophomore
Push before it became an official committee and would certainly
agree with Rodriguez that the job is important, yet tiring.
In a 1958 letter Wynan wrote, "We wore white dresses
with green ribbons across our fronts. I remember staying
over for Commencement, taking charge of the job and being
so tired I nearly died before it was all over. We were really
worked by everyone who had eyes to see."
That year and for a few years after, these unofficial sophomore
errand-runners received no recognition for their hard work. "In
1914 ... Sophomore Push Committee, full fledged, with duties
and prestige to match, took up its proper function at Commencement," wrote
Wyman. And thus a significant addition to Smith tradition
Junior Elizabeth Berliner participated in last year's Commencement
as a member of Push. One of her favorite moments -- besides
singing to alums -- was the pushing of seniors off the library
steps. "On the eve of Commencement, all the seniors
gathered at the steps and we sang to them. Then they all
got on the steps -- or squished into a gigantic senior blob
-- and we pushed them off 'into the real world.'
"We [also] learned the intricate 'ins and outs' of
all the Commencement activities, complete with floor plans
and diagrams," continued Berliner, who enjoyed Commencement
so much last year she is participating as a junior usher
Over the decades, Push has become both a means to enjoy
Commencement with senior friends and an honor. "I've
really enjoyed being a part of Commencement," said Rodriguez. "This
year is even more special because I am an engineering major,
and this class is the first with engineering graduates --
and I feel proud to be a part of that."
Rodriguez proposed a new ceremony that was accepted by the
committee this year. "The night before graduation, all
of the seniors will gather by the campus' Paradise Pond holding
candles. The senior class president's will be lit, and then
all of the others from that one candle, to represent the
Smith community," explained Rodriguez with excitement.
After the candle lighting, the large sign on Paradise Island
reading "Class of 2004" will be illuminated.
Whether this particular rite will become a tradition or
not, Push itself is an institution that will likely remain
a part of Smith's Commencement for another 90 years. As former
sophomore class officer Kathy Crane, Class of 1965, wrote
in the notes she passed on to the following year's sophomore
class, "Push is a lot of work, some of it quite taxing.
At the time, you may wonder whether it was all worth it.
But as I look back now, it was one of the high spots of the
Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation's
foremost liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students
from every state and 60 other countries, Smith is the largest
undergraduate women's college in the country.
Office of College
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174