Nothing says “Welcome” like The Griffith Memorial Arch

By Pulse Staff

Many universities have their traditions but the University of Findlay offers one that covers a whole range of emotions; excitement, fear, pride, a sense of accomplishment. It all comes from the Griffith Memorial Arch which stands at the end of a long sidewalk from North Main Street to Old Main.

As the faculty marshal for the last 10 years Dr. Diana Montague, Professor of Communication, has led thousands of students in and out of the arch.

“It’s exciting for me every single time,” Montague said.

On the last Friday before classes start every fall, faculty lead the new students under the arch onto campus towards Old Main. Professors line the sidewalk and clap for the students as they begin their new life of campus. At graduation every spring, faculty lead the graduates back out of the arch from Old Main back into the “real” world. It’s a tradition that dates back 70 years.

Many students share the memory of their own journey through the arch. Whether they are incoming freshmen or transfer students, everyone takes the walk through the arch, like Darius Merriweather, class of 2017.

“I remember the first moments attending Findlay as a transfer student and understanding the expectations that came when you walked through the arch for the first time,” Merriweather said. “I grew in so many ways professionally and personally that by the time I left Findlay going through the arch in 2017, I was prepared and confident for where life was going to take me.”

In 2020 graduates like Sydney Wertz were robbed of the ability to complete the tradition due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The University did not hold a traditional ceremony that year in the interest of keeping people safe.

“The arch ceremony was a wonderful induction to my UF education. It was special connecting with my classmates during that time and I felt like I was entering a new chapter of my life,” Wertz said. “Throughout college, my friends and I would discuss how excited we were for the arch ceremony and graduation. Being in the class of 2020, we were unable to have a graduation arch ceremony that year and it was something I feel we really missed out on.”

Part of the tradition includes the superstition that you can’t walk back under the arch until you graduate or you might not actually graduate. While there’s no scientific proof it still gives the ceremony extra meaning to students.

Montague says some memorable moments over the years include a period of time when parents released balloons as the new students walked in through the arch.

“I understand we don’t do that anymore because of the environment, but it was so cool to watch,” Montague said. “They’re letting go theoretically. ‘Let us take care of your now-adult children’.”

The decades old ritual connects thousands of UF graduates over the years.

“Tradition is something that helps us connect with other people,” Montague said. “Students who come in Friday (Aug. 12) they will have a story to share. The whole thing with storytelling is how do we connect to others.”

This Friday, Dr. Montague and many other faculty will once again, brave the heat, suit up in their academic regalia and welcome the latest class to the University of Findlay.

“It’s truly an honor and I enjoy it.”

 

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