By Mary Stone
& Sally Krutzig
After students graduate, Groundhog seems to take on a mythic quality in the minds of University of Dallas alumni. Ask them, and a dreamy, far-off look will come into their eyes as they remember “the good old days” before everything changed. As each new freshman wears his sweatshirt for the first time and each senior takes one last swig, the revelers make their own stories that will eventually be added to the greater legend. Four UD faculty who are also alumni look back on their favorite Groundhog memories.
That Time When We Partied with Mussolini in a Groundhog Suit
Dr. Gregory Roper believes he was a part of the first UD class to include a groundhog suit in the commemoration of the tradition. While celebrating Groundhog with his classmates in Rome during the spring semester, one student purchased a full-body bear costume in Rome that he then wore to the festivities. This particular Groundhog party took place in the ruins of an Italian building where Mussolini had supposedly kept his mistress before it was bombed during the war.
— Dr. Gregory Roper, Class of 1984
That Time When My Roommate Climbed a Porta-Potty
Dr. John Norris’s memories of groundhog go back to the 80s, when the 24-hour celebration always took place on the actual holiday, regardless of whether it fell on a weekday or a weekend. The party began with breakfast at Denny’s around 2 a.m. before the festivities in the woods commenced at 4 a.m. Norris likened the celebrations of his time to a “Sadie Hawkins” dance, at which girls would pursue the guys. He recalled one particularly persistent girl “attaching” herself to his roommate who, in desperation, climbed out the roof of a porta-potty and escaped out the back in order to lose her. Back then, mixed tapes were popular. As a result, admirers used the occasion of students congregating in the park as an opportunity to hand a dedicated mixed tape to a special someone. Receiving one, he recalls, was “sometimes flattering and sometimes not so flattering.”
— Dr. John Norris, Class of 1984
That Time When Nobody Checked for Flasks
“What I recall about the great Groundhog Day in the mid-90s was the beginning of the end (and maybe the absolute end) of a free-for-all centered around a bunch of kids rolling kegs into the woods.
Everyone imagines his own time as an era unto itself, but, during my years, it seemed like Groundhog faded into a more appointed and circumscribed event. This was surely as inevitable as the woods around campus giving way to houses and businesses. Somehow, a bunch of drunken college students mingling in a cleared field off Chemsearch [Boulevard] didn’t appeal to the administration and even less to the Irving police.
So naturally regimens were implemented, rules were enacted and some of the magic faded. But even at the end, the root was the same. There were kids and kegs and some cold and muddy place.”
— Rudy Bush, Class of 1997
That Time When I Brought a Giant Groundhog instead of a Sweatshirt
For Fr. Thomas Esposito, however, the holiday is much more “a lame excuse to drink in the woods.” This Cistercian priest and theology professor holds filial ties to Punxsutawney, Pa., home of the nation’s official Groundhog celebration, and he describes the UD celebration of Groundhog Day as a “phony.” Punxsutawney is believed to be the only Groundhog Day celebration larger than the one at UD. Yet even Esposito did not mind using his family’s two-and-a-half feet tall official Punxsutawney stuffed groundhog to obtain admission to UD’s “phony” party out in the woods one year free of charge.
— Fr. Thomas Esposito, Class of 2005