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Register for Homecoming 2008 Sept. 20 and 21 and Read the Story Behind The Rock’s Trip to Campus

Posted June 16, 2008

rock82808.gifFour decades ago, a boulder landed with a mighty thud in the middle of campus, but there were no tire tracks nearby. It was as if it dropped from the sky overnight. Actually, the Rock was deposited as a senior prank by the Class of 1968. In honor of the 40th anniversary of this milestone, Homecoming Weekend will rock around the clock with such celebrations as the Class of ’68 Reunion. The Rock and has been a College icon and message board ever since that memorable night. Where did this massive landmark come from, and how did it get there? To find out, click here.

Aside from the Class of ’68 gathering for a photo at “The Rock,” many other events have recently been added to the Homecoming 2008 schedule, including, on September 20, a raffle at the BBQ tent for pre-registered (by September 12) attendees immediately after the 1:00 p.m. football game, with such prizes a digital camera, an ipod, and a $50 gas card. Hypnotist Dan LaRosa will perform on Friday, September 19, at 9:00 p.m. at Sleith 100. Check out the updated Homecoming schedule and pre-register.

Other additions to the schedule are: the Class of ’88 Reunion, the women’s lacrosse reunion, the School of Arts and Sciences reunion, a photo retrospective at D’Amour Library on the history of the College’s libraries, and a tour of the School of Engineering’s new Collaborative Product Realization Laboratory facilities.

Homecoming Weekend will also include other affinity reunions, the U&ME Dinner Dance, the Golden Grads Luncheon, children's activities, Golden Bear football, and more. Take a turn on the giant inflatable bronking bull!

Most of the festivities on Saturday, September 20 will take place on Golden Bear Boulevard: the Campus Utilities Building (CUB) parking area across from the tennis courts. Homecoming participants should park at the Kevin S. Delbridge Welcome Center lot. On-campus transportation will be provided to and from Golden Bear Stadium, or just follow the “paw prints” to the athletics area.

Be sure to pre-register for free admission to the football game and a Homecoming souvenir. On September 21 check in at the registration table and receive your hand stamp for the 1:00 p.m. game vs. Maine Maritime Academy. Also hosting games will be Golden Bear men’s soccer (11:00 a.m. vs. Anna Maria College) women’s soccer (1:30 p.m. vs. Anna Maria College) and field hockey (6:00 p.m. vs. University of New England).

At 9:00 p.m. the Campus Activities Board (CAB) will present a concert by Emerson Drive at the Alumni Healthful Living Center. To view a photo album/slide show of the 2007 Homecoming Weekend, click here.

The Rock’s Journey to Higher Education
68sunbathe170.gifWhat in the world would motivate a bunch of seniors from the Class of 1968 to embark upon a plan to place a red sandstone boulder in the middle of campus? Well, they were bored. “Let’s do something then,” said Karl Jurgen ’68 to his buddies. “We can leave our mark on Western New England College in fine style.”

The perpetrators formed a committee that included Jurgen, Ken Crotty ’68, Peter Duhamel ’68, Dean Fraser ’68, George Gaunt ’68, Rick Holland ’68, Bob James ’68, Bob Joyal ’68, Shelby Kaplan ’68, Dave Kenisen ’68, Bill Piersol ’68, Ted Raugh ’68, Barry Roberts ’68, Fred Siegfried ’68, Dan Castellano ’69, and Jeff Roche ’69.

According to an article written by Brenda Marsian ’91 in the winter 1998 edition of The Communicator magazine, there were several ideas for a class prank, including hiring a parachutist to wear a Golden Bear costume and jump out of a plane onto the athletic fields. However, every potential flying bear they contacted feared being blown into the electrical unit at the corner of Bradley and Wilbraham roads. There was another idea to place a boulder on the parking spot of President Beaumont Herman, and that notion was panned because the prank would have been fleeting—the rock would undoubtedly have beenplane1968.gif removed in due time.

But they knew that a boulder dropped into a hole between the Campus Center and Herman Hall might just have some permanence. The “committee” procured maps of the campus’ underground plumbing and wiring and determined that nothing in the College’s infrastructure was in jeopardy.

They obtained access to a large rock, a dump truck, and the other necessary equipment thanks to Roberts, whose father owned a construction company, and Jurgen’s father, who worked for the building firm Daniel O’Connell and Sons.

At 4:30 a.m. on May 16, 1968, Jurgen and his cohorts used a material handler to lift The Rock from a construction site a few miles away at the corner of Allen and Cooley Streets (now the Five Town Plaza) and then loaded it into a dump truck with the help of a material handler and few hired construction workers.

gawkers68.gifThe problem was, The Rock was too heavy and the truck didn’t have enough horsepower. The plot was almost stopped in its tracks. “The weight of the truck made it impossible for Karl to drive the truck out of the hole where The Rock had been and the material handler was used again to push the truck out of its trap,” according to the article.

Jurgen remained behind the wheel for The Rock’s first journey since the last Ice Age. When they reached campus, the crew convinced a security guard on campus not to tattle. Then the dump truck released its ten tons of dead weight. “The ground actually shook from the impact,” said Holland.” The brigade painted “68” on The Rock, beginning a regular ritual of painting the rock, and also produced a ladder and proceeded to tie a large weather balloon to the Cupola.

To top off the hijinks that day, as everyone on campus was gaping at The Rock at noon, George Gaunt, an accomplished pilot, “choreographed an air show to the tune ‘Snoopy and the Red Baron’ that blared out of speakersstayconnect.gif placed throughout the campus,” wrote Marsian. Gaunt flew his two-seater plane, over the administration building (now Deliso Hall), completed a few spiral turns (pictured above) and dropped 4,000 ping pong balls to an elated crowd. The balls scattered and students collected them to read the different sayings and well wishes written by the Class of 1968.”

Unfortunately, Gaunt never saw The Rock become the monolithic message board and icon that it is today. After entering the U.S. Navy shortly after graduation and serving as an aviator, he lost his life in a training accident in 1971 off the coast of Virginia. His spirit nonetheless has lived on during The Rock “committee” reunions in 1988 and 1998, when members brought some of the original ping-pong balls to Homecoming and reminisced about the prank that resonated through generations of students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Karl Jurgen ’68 (left) and Shelby Kaplan ’68 are pictured
at the 1988 Homecoming, when the 20th anniversary of
The Rock’s presence on campus was celebrated.

Students poured out of the St. Germain Campus Center
when fireworks were set off to alert them to George
Gaunt's "air show."

Jurgen, Richard Holland '68, and Kaplan returned to the
"scene of the crime" during the 1998 Homecoming and
climbed atop The Rock.


Western New England University is a private, independent, coeducational institution founded in 1919. Located on an attractive 215-acre suburban campus in Springfield, Massachusetts, Western New England University serves 3,955 students, including 2,575 full-time undergraduate students. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs are offered through Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Engineering, and Pharmacy, and School of Law.


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