Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 30, 2024

Commemoration Day brings bar back to Levering

By ELI WALLACH | February 28, 2013

Hopkins celebrated Commemoration Day this past Friday as students gathered to recognize the 137th anniversary of the inauguration of the University’s first President, Daniel Coit Gilman. Hopkins has recognized Commemoration Day since the very first anniversary of Gilman’s inauguration. In the past, the University would hold a large formal ceremony, often bringing in visiting various heads of state as keynote speakers.

The event has changed dramatically over the decades. This year’s festivities included cake celebration in the Glass Pavilion, a Student Activities Fair in the the Recreation Center, a screening of Skyfall hosted by the Hop and a celebrity poker tournament hosted by FSI and RAB. Also featured in the line-up was a Commemoration Day first: a Faculty-Student Happy Hour in the Levering Lounge, invoking memories of the days when the University operated a bar for students in Levering Hall.

In honor of what has the University has dubbed “the Birthday of Johns Hopkins University,” both the Cake Celebration and Happy Hour displayed old photographs of the University along with descriptions of the Hopkins’ history.

Many students, like senior Stefany Gomez, took the time to reflect on the importance of remembering Hopkins’ backstory.

“I feel like people don’t really know all the history that comes with Hopkins. Most of it is really cool,” Gomez said. “I feel like getting people to know the school’s history will help the school spirit.”

Freshman Jeremy Nelson also cited the merits of preserving the University’s history, noting its utility looking towards the future.

“By looking at the past, we can improve our Hopkins community going into the future,” Nelson said. “We can learn from our mistakes as well as our successes.”

For some students, like senior Marni Aronson,  Commemoration Day meant more than a series of events.

“I think its really important to celebrate the university’s traditions, resurrect the ones that have become less popular and really develop the new ones. We have to do this in order to not lose that sense of legacy of the school,” Aronson said.

Monroe Zeffert, an alumnus from the class of 1979, was delighted to return to Homewood campus on Commemoration Day. His catering company, Zeffert and Gold, serviced the Faculty-Student Happy Hour.

The Happy Hour event was created in memory of the bar that the Levering Building hosted for much of the University’s history, including the years in which Zeffert was a student. Located in the bottom floor of Levering, the bar, named the “Rathskeller,” was a hub for campus nightlife.

“We called the place ‘the Rat’ and there was a disco night every Thursday. I’m telling you, it was a big to-do,” Zeffert said. “The place was hopping every night but was especially amazing on Thursday nights.”

Zeffert made sure to note some of the key differences in the drinking culture of his college days, such as the fact that, during his time as a University student, the drinking age was strictly 21.

“The amazing binge drinking, the over-drinking, the passing out; that I never remember happening,” Zeffert stated. “It was safer, people were not driving anywhere. And I’m sorry to say this, but now, that’s a real issue.”

As for Commemoration Day, Zeffert explained that the festivities of University’s birthday were mainly only for the faculty and not for the students. However, today, Zeffert is happy that there is a day on campus dedicated to remembering the University’s history.

“I hope students know that it was really a well thought out contribution to create a top-level university here, and at the same time create the hospital. In real dollars, that contribution was amazing,” Zeffert said.


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