St. Patrick’s Day, a day most commonly associated with green, alcohol, and joyous celebration, also has a special connection with engineering students across the world. St. Patrick, born in the late 4th century AD, was known for spreading Christianity and building churches, particularly in Ireland. He is credited with introducing arches and the use of mortar to Irish builders. As a result, he was named the patron saint of engineers.
The tradition of celebrating St. Patrick among engineering students began at the University of Missouri – Columbia in 1903. Over the years the festivities grew and included a parade of engineering students, a student dressed as St. Patrick, a knighting ceremony, and a ball. In 1908, the engineering students in Rolla were invited to send a representative participate in the festivities in Columbia. The Rolla student body raised money to send a delegate to Columbia, and had enough money left to host their own celebration.
On March 17, 1908, 200 students met George Menefee portraying St. Patrick at the Rolla train station as he rode into town on a rail handcar. The students traveled to the quad, where they searched for and kissed the “Blarney Stone.” Kissing the Blarney Stone is another Irish tradition, with the original stone set in a wall of Blarney Castle. The 1908 stone in Rolla was created by Benjamin Cody, a then freshman student. Seniors who found and kissed the Blarney Stone were knighted by Menefee portraying St. Patrick. Finding the Blarney Stone, the Knighting of St. Patrick, kissing St. Patrick’s foot, and clearing an invasion of fake snakes became St. Patrick’s Day traditions in Rolla. Soon these festivities surpassed those in Columbia. The tradition of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Rolla has continued for more than a century.
Categories: Arts & Culture, Education
Subject: St. Patrick; Universities and colleges
Collection Name: Paul A. Philippi Collection
Contributing Institution: Missouri University of Science and Technology, University Archives