We invited Obies worldwide to participate in the creation of our Virtual Illumination video. See how Obies light up the world in this celebratory culmination of VRW.
The first illumination in Oberlin occurred in November 1860 to celebrate the election of Abraham Lincoln as the 16th president of the United States. However, the longstanding tradition began in May 1903 during the inauguration of Oberlin College President Henry Churchill King. Frederick O. Grover, professor of botany, helped mark the occasion by stringing and lighting Japanese lanterns around campus. The former Harvard professor suggested it after a custom he had witnessed of illuminating the Harvard Yard. The college purchased several thousand lanterns to string along the posts on campus and several streets of the town.
Except for three interruptions, the custom of illuminating the campus continued annually until 1932 when it was canceled for financial reasons. The outcry was such that the college re-instituted it in 1933 and purchased an additional 20,000 lanterns. Illumination night eventually became a tradition held during Commencement/Reunion Weekend.
Virtual Reunion Week provided an opportunity to celebrate our more than 40,000 alumni across the world. Traditions such as class banners, faculty lectures, the Grand Piano Extravaganza, Nights at the ’Sco and Open Mic Nights at the Cat in the Cream highlighted the past week. Another time-honored Oberlin College tradition is Illumination which began in 1903, and gives Obies a space to gather to enjoy community, music, ice cream and pie under the lanterns on Tappan Square. In this unique year, we invited Obies worldwide to submit Illumination photos that celebrate the Oberlin spirit. Thank you to all of those who shared their light.