Almost 90 years ago, the Maryland State Normal School [MSNS] — the earliest incarnation of what we now know as Towson University — embarked on a new tradition. In November of 1926, 100 mothers of the school’s Junior class, which was at that time the equivalent of a freshmen class, came to campus to spend the weekend with their daughters.
The three days and two evenings were packed full of activity. They had dinner in the new dining room which was decorated with mums and candles while the school orchestra played in the balcony. After dinner they met with teachers and held a kind of assembly. On Saturday they went for a drive into Baltimore and up around Loch Raven. They met with their daughters’ advisers and the school principal, Lida Lee Tall. Everyone had tea with still more music and entertainment continued into the evening with talent shows, performances by the Boys’ Glee Club, dances, movies, and charades.
After a quiet Sunday spent attending church and having an early dinner, the mothers returned home, knowing a bit more what life was like for their daughters at MSNS. Many of the mothers, however, were former students of the school, so for them it was probably a bit like a homecoming.
In the following years, the tradition would continue with just as much packed into those three days as could be managed.
While the weekend was supposed to be for just mothers and daughters, by 1931, some fathers joined the group for the Saturday evening entertainment. 1931 was also the year that the class was first referred to as “Freshmen”.
In November of 1947, after a lull of some time due to World War II, the tradition was renewed, but as a single day event instead of a weekend.
“In former years the Freshmen Advisory Council and faculty members have sponsored a Freshmen Mothers’ Weekend” reported the Towerlight on November 13th, a day before the anticipated events. “This year, however, because of the large number in the Freshmen Class, the Mothers could not be accommodated. It was felt, too, that the Freshmen Fathers should have an opportunity to observe the college.”
The day was still eventful — registration began at 9:30 followed by classroom visits and faculty conferences, an assembly, lunch, more classroom visits and tours, tea, and then sports games followed by dinner and evening entertainment.
By 1953, the program changed a bit to a half-day event on a Friday beginning at 2:30pm. It was hoped that parents who worked were better able to attend. Parents could visit classrooms and meet with advisers, enjoy dinner, tour the campus, and attend panel discussions with faculty and students. At the end of the evening, the Glen Players performed for everyone’s entertainment and students and parents alike could decide whether to spend the night in the dorm or go home.
In 1957, the afternoon was switched to Sunday and while the campus was open for tours and faculty and advisers were in attendance, a smaller reception was offered with no other programming. By this time, freshmen classes were around 500 students and it had become a challenge for the administration to accommodate all of them.
The tradition of families visiting campus all but disappeared for almost 25 years.
In the spring of 1980, the Community Assistants, Residence Council, and the Freshman Residence Advisory Council all co-sponsored a weekend for parents of resident students. Again, tours were offered as well as a reception with faculty which offered wine and cheese, a bull roast, a dance, and a jazz concert. Parents from out of town stayed at local hotels rather than on campus, although in later years, the University Residence Government encouraged younger siblings to stay with students in the dorms. By 1983 there were also various competitions between the various dormitories and parents could sign up to participate.
As the new millennium approached, Family Weekend events were moved back to the fall. The Towerlight reported that in 1998 “More than 300 students and parents attended a breakfast with University President Dr. Hoke L. Smith, 450 attended a pre-game tent party, 60 participated in rock climbing in Burdick Hall and 150 were present at the Tiger Club’s bull and oyster roast following Towson’s football game.”
This year’s Family Weekend begins Friday, October 9th at noon. As in year’s past, there’s a good mix of the best that Towson University’s campus has to offer with tours, receptions, sports events, art exhibits, a planetarium show, and even a casino night. More information can be found at the Campus Life website.
What began as a way for anxious parents to get a peek into their daughter’s daily lives on campus has become one of Towson University’s most enduring traditions.