In a traditional showcase for spring millinery, more than 300 Brenau Women’s College alumnae plus families and friends will converge on the Brenau University campus here Saturday, April 14, for the annual day of class reunions and the ‘May Day’ celebration for current students.
The link between the past and present for the 134-year-old institution also includes special activities for the members of the Class of 1962, who on the 50th “golden” anniversary of their graduations officially join the university’s 24 Karat Club, as well dances, art and theater performances involving current Brenau students.
And, yes, there still is a May Pole and a May Court lead-out in which the May Queen takes her place on a royal throne made of wicker.
“That’s the beauty of tradition,” said Brenau Alumni Director Jenny Dell. “Although the demographic makeup of the student population has changed significantly over the years, it is how some of the current students’ mothers and grandmothers did things, and it will be passed on to the daughters and granddaughters of current students.”
The afternoon festivities also include open houses for various sororities on campus. Public programs included an opening reception in all three Brenau art galleries, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., for exhibitions of the work of graduating seniors who majored in art and design, and at 7:30 p.m. in the Burd Center for Performing Arts, the student and faculty dance concert.
The “May Day” event, which began on campus 89 years ago as a spring festival honoring one student from each state, has evolved into a chance for solidifying old bonds and making new friendships. When the college was on the “quarter system” academically, the timing more closely coincided with the actual “May Day” calendar date. Although the change to the semester system pushed events earlier in April ahead of final examinations and the early may commencement, the “May Day” name stuck.
This year’s festivities kick off at a 11:30 a.m. champagne brunch for registered alumni on the lawn in front of the Victorian-era buildings at the heart of the Brenau campus. At 1 p.m. Brenau President Ed Schrader will preside over the presentation of the May Court, which now includes four members from each class, selected by their peers and each wearing colors that signify whether she is a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior.
Following the “coronation,” each member of the court will pick up the end of a ribbon color-coded for her class year and begin the May Pole wrapping ceremony. Although some anthropologists hold that the Maypole stems from an ancient Germanic ritual commemorating the end of winter and the return of spring, Brenau women over the years appropriated the phenomenon to signify the continuum of their sisterhood, said Debbie Thompson, director of campus traditions.
“May Day celebrates Brenau women,” Thompson said. “It helps them connect and stay connected.”