The Significance of Ivy Stones

By: Gina Sesta, GEd’18

The first Ivy Stone dated June 7, 1873. Located on College Hall.

On the University of Pennsylvania campus, it is easy to spot of the numerous slabs of marble installed on different buildings, each one inscribed with a particular year and a unique design. These pieces are known as the Ivy Stones and encompass a part of Penn’s history greater than the year they commemorate. They hold a lengthy past dating back to 1873 when the first stone was placed on College Hall in recognition of the institution settling into West Philadelphia from the original Center City location. What is now known as Ivy Day is held just a few days before commencement. It is at this annual ceremony that the Ivy Stone in honor of the graduating class is revealed.


Each Ivy Stone is able to provide insight on the graduating class from that particular year and sometimes a broader historical context. Between the years of 1926 until 1961, tradition had shifted from just one stone installed each year to two– one for the men of the graduating class and one for the women. The stones from these years were often similar in design yet a stark difference can be seen in the men’s stones of 1944 and 1945. Both years featured an image relating to war with the 1944 stone including a military aircraft and 1945 displaying a combat helmet.


Ivy Stones from 1878 and 1978

The location of an Ivy Stone on campus is informative of the values during a particular year. A graduating class has a voice in the both the design of the stone and its location. For example, many of the first stones were placed on College Hall as that was the first and central building of the campus. As the value of student life increased, stones began to be placed on Houston Hall which was the first student union in the nation. Many of the women’s stones can be found on Bennett Hall, the main facility for women in Penn’s past. An Ivy Stone can even be found at Franklin Field in recognition of Penn’s 1983 Ivy League championship.

The Ivy Day tradition is set to continue this year on May 12, 2018.

Follow Penn Alumni on Instragram where we will be featuring Ivy Stones throughout Penn’s history!




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