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Hidden Colgate: A year of ’13 list

By Daniel DeVries on April 13, 2013

In celebrating the Year of ‘13, we are posting a story or list that pertains to our lucky number on the 13th of each month. This month, we’ve compiled a list of 13 things you may not know about Colgate.

1. Robots live here.

One of our robots is three-stories tall. We call it LASR, and it works in the library to retrieve any of the 550,000 periodicals, media and other items stored in the university collection. And in the chemistry department, a robot named Gryffon handles precise liquid measurements to the nanoliter, which is about one thirty-millionth of an ounce.

2. Colgate owns one of the first dinosaur eggs ever discovered.

On July 13, 1923, Roy Chapman Andrews, curator at the American Museum of Natural HIstory in New York City (and the inspiration for Indiana Jones), found a clutch of 13 dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. One of those eggs was purchased by a Colgate trustee who donated it to the university in 1924. Since the acquisition, the egg has been stolen, recovered, and later escaped destruction in a major fire. Read the whole story.

3. West Hall has quite a story.

A professor drew the building plans, supervised the workers, raised funds, carried his teaching load, ran a farm, boarded students, and served as pastor of a local church during construction. Hard work? Maybe, but West Hall was finished a year early in 1827 and now serves as one of six first-year dormitories.

4. We invented spring break … Really.

Seeking a warm climate training during the winter of 1936, Colgate’s swim coach took the entire team to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where they conducted practice at the Casino Pool. The idea caught on, now with less training.

5. Colgate underground.

If it’s a bit nippy outside, or if you are just seeking adventure, it is possible to walk from Lathrop Hall to the Robert H.N. Ho Science Center via a series of long hallways, a few stairwells, and a tunnel. The path also allows underground access to McGregory, Olin, and Wynn halls.

6. Slap Shot.

While Colgate’s hockey team has produced several NHL players, you might also recognize Starr Rink as one of the locations used in filming the 1977 Paul Newman cult-classic Slap Shot, about a minor league hockey team with a penchant for fighting.

7. The campus is beautiful, but we had some help.

The lower campus was designed with the input of Frederick Law Olmsted, who was brought to Hamilton to consult by James B. Colgate himself in 1883. Olmsted is most famously known for his design of Central Park in New York City. Colgate’s golf course, Seven Oaks, which is listed among the top collegiate courses in the country, was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1956.

8. Colgate owns a yurt.

Not only does Colgate own a yurt, but it is fully equipped with a propane stove, bunk beds, and a wood stove, and it can be rented throughout the year. For those wondering, this is what a yurt looks like.

9. Green is our goal.

Since 2009, Colgate has reduced its total greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, reduced emissions per student by five percent, and shaved more than $500,000 off the annual operating budget through energy and resource conservation. Colgate has established an ambitious target to be climate neutral by 2019, the university’s 200th anniversary.

10. You could even say it glows.

The song “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” was written by Johnny Marks, a Colgate alumus. He also wrote “Silver and Gold,” and “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” both performed by Burl Ives.

11. We have tunks.

The term “tunk” is still in use on campus today, usually to refer to faculty soirees. It was originally meant to describe a masculine social occasion, usually in the evening, at which food and non-alcoholic drinks were served. The earliest mention is from 1882, but had been in use for some time at that point. The term may have roots in Welsh history, meaning “food-rent.”

12. It hasn’t always been just maroon.

The school colors were originally blue and magenta (1868-1886), later orange and maroon (1886-1900) before finally deciding on just maroon.

13. The Grateful Dead played here.

Nov. 4, 1977, Jerry Garcia and company played at Cotterell Court. Have a listen.

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1 Comment



  • Steve Parker said:

    I’m glad to see outdoor activities and the Reserve named after Walt Beatty. He was a VERY interested alum when I was a Sigma Chi at Colgate, and a hugely positive guy. An annual tradition was to bring a few of us out to a property of his and cut fire wood for the house for the fall and winter. He would run the chain saw, we would drag and load it. He was retired, I don’t know how old he was, but I DO remember him physically running us into the ground. He was a marvel and a great role model.