A Smith Tradition:
By Jessica Brophy '04
traditions of Smith College have deep roots, and perhaps
one of the oldest and most often overlooked customs is participation
in the Sophomore Push Committee.
Founded officially in 1914, Push is a group of 40 or so sophomores
whose duties during each year's Commencement weekend include organizing
seniors and alumnae for the Ivy Day 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 Neilson
Library to signify their entrance into the "real world."
to say, Push members are busy.
"Our job is basically to make seniors
look good and to make sure that everything runs smoothly," says
Erika Rodriguez '06, this year's head
of Push. Rodriguez committed to the position last year as a first-year student
and served as assistant head of Push 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 names are called correctly,
help guide alums into the right places -- and run errands as well."
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,
Wyman 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."
Berliner '05 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 Neilson Library steps. "On
Illumination Night, all the seniors gathered at the Neilson steps and
we sang a bunch of songs to them. Then they all got up on the steps,
or squished into a gigantic senior blob, and we pushed them off the steps
of the library ‘into
the real world.'
"We [also] learned the intricate ins
and outs of all the Commencement activities, complete with floor plans
and diagrams," continues Berliner, who enjoyed
Commencement so much last year that she is participating as a junior
usher this year.
Over 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," says
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 has suggested a new tradition that was accepted by the committee
this year. "During Illumination Night, all of the seniors will
gather by 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," explains Rodriguez. After the candle-lighting
ceremony, the large sign on Paradise Island reading "Class of
2004" will be illuminated.
Whether this particular Push-sponsored
event will continue or not, Push itself is an institution that will
likely remain a part of Smith Commencement. As former sophomore class
officer Kathy Crane '65 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 year."