The story goes that a little more than 50 years ago, some college students, just like you and me, decided to change history. In a very merry spirit, they decided to make a name for themselves and their university. Upon petitioning their university president for a campus-wide holiday, they were jokingly advised to make their own celebration out of Groundhog Day, a then-unimportant occasion. Unperturbed, these students created some jolly festivities that would shape the identity of the University of Dallas and that have been passed down through generations of UD students.
Now, UD’s Groundhog is one of the biggest celebrations of Groundhog Day, right after Punxsutawney Phil’s prophetic appearance.
But why Groundhog Day? Why not a religious feast day, to celebrate our Catholic identity? Or why not a national holiday, such as President’s Day, to show our pursuit of living good civic lives?
Groundhog was predestined to be our holiday because it embodies our spirit as a small, unique and united university.
Groundhog Day is one of those holidays that one does not put much effort into observing, if one is not from Punxsutawney, Pa., or if one’s path has led one to a small plot of land in the west part of Dallas. For most, it has been reduced to a small memo on their calendar, immortalized by the traditions of a few.
This spirit of tradition is what our university embodies. The Core is one of the clearest examples, continuing the study of the great texts and thinkers to form wise adults to live a valuable life. Our dedication to the tradition of the Catholic faith continues the salvific mission of Jesus in our own lives and the world. Experiencing different cultures and mindsets during the Rome semester broadens our understanding of other rich traditions outside of the American experience.
Groundhog is our tradition that, like the great thinkers and the Catholic Church, we pass on to future generations and to the world.
The groundhog itself is revealing of UD culture. These marmots are known for their burrowing practices. UD students are likewise known to burrow themselves deep in the periodicals during the intense weeks of midterms and finals.
They are also seen finding their way into wood groves to share with friends around an open fire. Groundhogs tunnel their way through fresh earth, creating shelters for themselves and their families. We groundhogs make our way through a variety of dwellings, from an outdated freshman dorm to the modern Clark Hall and finish burrowing our way across Northgate Drive. Along the way, we may change course, dig too shallow or too deep, or even lose our way. But it is the friendships that we make with other groundhogs that help us make it out the other side.
This spirit of Groundhog courses through the veins of this university. Our focus on tradition brings us back to the rich, natural meaning of our humanity. The friendships we form help us find our way through the sometimes dark, confusing tunnels of life. And whether there will be an early spring or six more weeks of winter, current students and alumni make sure to celebrate who we are as groundhogs.