The Victory Arch is more than just a pretty campus landmark, although it certainly is that. It’s also an iconic and significant fixture with a storied history and an important role in two annual traditions.
Old Main served as the focal point and heart of the campus until it burned down in 1956. Although it was believed to be a fire hazard prior to the blaze, the community was still stunned and heartbroken when flames claimed the decaying building. The exact cause of the fire is still unknown, but witnesses claim you could see the fire in Spencer, which is 40 miles away. When all was said and done, only the brick shell of the building remained. The brick and stone were preserved and became the structure we now know as the Victory Arch.
As a freshman, faculty will lead you through the arch from north to south, heading to Schaller Chapel on Founders Day, a university holiday celebrated in early September. It was established to celebrate the lives of those who had served the college and died the preceding year. After your march through the arch, you reach the steps of the chapel, where the faculty line up and applaud as you walk past. It’s a meaningful experience, but the weight of it doesn’t really hit until graduation day, when the route is reversed. On your final day as a student, you gather in Schaller Chapel to assemble for commencement ceremony. Bagpipers and faculty then lead you from Schaller Chapel, through the arch and across the street to the Siebens Fieldhouse for the ceremony where you become an alumnus.