PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania gave out its Senior Class Leadership Awards on Saturday, May 12 at College Hall as part of the weekend's Commencement ceremonies. At the ceremony, Zack Rosen -- a senior guard on the men's basketball team -- was presented with the Spoon Award.
The Senior Class Leadership Awards are among the oldest traditions at the University of Pennsylvania. The oldest of them, the Spoon, is documented as early as 1865, when Penn still occupied a campus on 9th street in Center City. Today, no fewer than eight of these distinguished awards -- four for men, four for women -- are announced on Hey Day, the last day of classes in each academic year. Elected by their fellow students in recognition of outstanding service to the University community, the recipients of these awards have always included the best and brightest of each graduating class.
Rosen was presented his award by Michael Gordon, the 1987 recipient of the Spoon; in fact, all award recipients were presented by the 1987 honoree, as the '87 class was on campus for its 25th reunion. Also as part of the ceremony, Rosen was presented the Class of 1915 Award by University President Amy Gutmann.
The first three-time captain in program history, Rosen joins a distinguished list of former men's basketball players who have been presented with the Spoon Award. They include Ernie Beck (1953), Barton Leach (1955), John Wideman (1963), Ray Carazo (1964), Bobby Morse (1972), Tony Price (1979), Paul Little (1983) and Karl Racine (1985).
The tradition of awarding the "wooden spoon," as it was known in the 19th century, is so old that its origins apparently predate all student publications, including the class yearbook and student newspaper. Despite the aura of mystery about its first year s, the spoon's significance has always been the same: the spoon is symbolic of first honors among the senior men.
This award grew out of a mid and late 19th century of class rivalry at Penn. Perhaps the best known of these rituals were the "Bowl Fights" between the freshmen and sophomore classes. If the sophomore class could fend off the freshmen's assault on the bowl , then it was preserved by the class officers and in some years was presented to a memeber of the class on the same occasion as the spoon. The bowl was iunbcluded in the class day presentations as early as 1879, among other gifts and prizes. The class of 1884, however, may have been the first to present it as a senior award, when it was reported, "The bowl, saved from the fight with the freshmen, was given to Reath as an evidence of his vieing with Sergeant [the winner of the Spoon Award] in esteem of the class."
Another of the class rivalries, but shorter lived than the Bowl Fights, was the "Cane Fight." The use of a walking cane in the 19th century was a cultural symbol of high status. The cane fights were attempts by the sophomore class to prevent any freshman from carrying a cane on campus. The canes, of course, were utilized as weapons, and the senior class moved quickly to convert the violent ritual into a student award. In 1891, the senior class added the award of the cane to those of the spoon and the bowl. Awarded annually since that year, the cane is considered the 3rd most prestigious award given to the senior men.
The ivy day ceremonies, in which the parting seniors plant a sprig of ivy to signify the growth and spreading of the senior class, are at least as old as the West Philadelphia campus, which was first occupied in 1872. The spade award is derived from Ivy Day, and seniors have elected and honored a spade man since 1896. The spade was symbolic of 4th honors among men in the senior class.