As dedicated alumni gather onto the University of Dallas campus during the days leading up to Groundhog Day and publicize their nationwide Groundhog celebrations, current students are left wondering: What compels them to maintain the UD Groundhog tradition?
Jeff Mobus, an ’86 alumnus and longtime member of the National Alumni Board, said that he pressed to move the group’s annual meeting to the weekend of Groundhog so that he could be present for the celebration.
“Groundhog has been meaningful to me and my family for years,” Mobus said. “My father-in-law, Jeff Fougerousse, was the first to don a Groundhog costume, and my daughter carried on the tradition by wearing it last year.”
Mobus recalled the glory days of the early Groundhog celebrations.
“It used to be a crazy wild drinking party that would start at 4 a.m., involving students and professors alike,” Mobus said. “The Groundhog that we celebrate now is a lot more regulated than it was back then.”
Mobus added that on the years that he is not able to be physically present at UD on Groundhog Day, he attends celebrations that take place among alumni across the country — specifically those nearer to his home in Vermont. Those celebrations include old friends, dramatic presentations of epic poetry such as “The Groundhogiad” and nostalgic memories of past times at UD, he said.
Veronica O’Neil, ’11, flew in from Chicago to meet with old friends and celebrate a tradition that shaped her UD experience.
“The spirit of camaraderie and community here is incredible,” O’Neil said. “I currently work in alumni relations at a law firm in Chicago, and I can easily say that UD has influenced the value that I attribute to maintaining connections with people and remembering who helped me to become who I am today.”
For O’Neil, the sense of tradition and fellowship within the UD community, specifically manifested in the unique celebration of Groundhog, is a part of her impetus to return each year for the celebration.
CJ Broadbent, ’15, called Groundhog a great way for old friends to get together.
“Groundhog is like a giant class reunion that we have other than weddings, which have been slowly decreasing as time goes on and as people become more established in their lives,” Broadbent said. “I return to have a great time over good beer and good company and to keep up with the campus — the professors, the new students. I like to stay connected.”
Broadbent related that she found a sense of family among those she met at UD — whether in her classes or on the volleyball court — and this connection is what brings her back to UD year after year.
Groundhog at UD is a meaningful celebration that extends beyond the four years of the typical UD graduate. The sense of alumni spirit — whether at the special alumni tent at the Groundhog celebration itself, within conferences of the National Alumni Board or at Groundhog celebrations scattered around the country — is what will continue to keep Groundhog a nostalgic tradition that current UD students and alumni alike value and celebrate.
“Groundhog is such a unique and meaningful celebration to so many people,” freshman Christina Kilmer said. “Even though I’ve only attended once, there is something special here, and I plan to continue the tradition in the years to come.”