Drexel University is an institution rich in heritage. Anthony J. Drexel, a nineteenth century financial industry leader, established our institution with a philanthropic spirit to provide the working class an opportunity to learn, labor, and achieve excellence. Over a century later, Drexel’s legacy thrives as his institution has grown into a world-class university. Though it has evolved over the years, Drexel has maintained a commitment to providing men and women of all backgrounds with the tools they need to succeed in their chosen careers.
Technological and curricular innovations at Drexel are built on a solid foundation of tradition. Our mission of preparing students for success in modern society has been continuous since Anthony J. Drexel founded the University in 1891. In that spirit, we invite you to learn about and participate in many of the legends and rituals that make Drexel special. When new students carry on these traditions and create new ones of their own, they become a permanent part of the fabric of our great University.
Brief History of Drexel University
- Timeline of Drexel History – A historic timeline of events at Drexel University, from 1889 through 1984
- Drexel Buildings – These are lists of buildings on the Drexel University campuses and the years they were built from 1891 through 2002
- Drexel Presidents – A listing of Drexel University presidents and the dates of their tenures from 1891 to the present
- Drexel Colleges and Schools – Historic timelines of significant events at the colleges and schools of Drexel University from 1891 to the present day
- Bibliography of Drexel History – This bibliography covers publications about Drexel University
Drexel Traditions Program
As students committed to our university’s future growth, Drexel Traditions find it vital to look back on what has contributed to our past successes. Reviving Drexel’s traditions is an initiative to empower our generation and connect with the decades of alumni who have gone before us to labor in achieving excellence. Join the Traditions Program in reviving traditions and instilling pride into our campus. To learn more, visit drexel.edu/ia/annualfund/traditions.html.
Below are some legends and traditions that make Drexel University the unique place that it is today:
The Dragon has been the school’s mascot for nearly 80 years; there seems to be no special reason for its selection other than its obvious alliterative appeal. The Dragon represents ferocity and combativeness, desirable qualities in a mascot. Before they became Dragons, the school’s sports teams had been known by a variety of names, including the Blue & Gold, the Engineers, and the Drexelites. The first published reference to the Drexel Dragons appears in a 1928 edition of The Triangle, in an article on the football team; a dragon logo appears on the jerseys of the men’s basketball team in a photo in the 1929 Lexerd. Today, the Drexel Dragon is known as “Mario the Magnificent” in honor of the late Mario Mascioli, class of 1945 and past Board of Trustees Member.
“Meet me at the Dragon”
“Mario the Magnificent,” the bronze statue of the school mascot, the Drexel dragon, is the work of renowned Philadelphia sculptor Eric Berg. The statue and the Dragon Park at 33rd and Market streets were dedicated on December 4, 2002; donations funded 100% of the project. Mario is 14 feet long, ten feet high and weighs 4,100 pounds, on a 17-ton granite base. He is an easily visible landmark at which people can meet, especially when they are unfamiliar with the campus.
Water Boy Statue
“The Water Boy,” one of the Drexel Collection’s proudest treasures, is by Frédéric-August Bartholdi (1834-1904), the French sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. Originally called “The Alsatian Vintner,” the statue was designed as a fountain with a stream of water pouring from the cask into the boy’s mouth. While an aged patina covers the statue, the right toe remains a shining bronze—generations of Drexel students passing through the Main Building’s Great Court have rubbed the toe for good luck in exams.
The music to the University’s school song was written by organist James M. Dickinson, with lyrics by a young Library School student, Virginia Carter Castleman, Class of 1899:
Hail, Drexel, hail to thee,
accept our praise.
To you this joyful song
thy children raise.
Drexel is in our eyes like
a guiding star;
Bright with illuming rays,
Splendid in beauty sure,
wave our banners bold.
Proclaiming truth with blue;
great worth with gold.
Now, as our music swells,
rings this ancient song:
Hail, Drexel, hail to thee!
Our star shines strong.
Drexel Fight Song
The original Drexel Fight Song was written by Gay V. Piercy (Class of 1939) and Todd Groo (Class of 1941) and appeared for the first time in the October 1938 edition of the Drexel Athletic News. The following is the recently modified version reflecting Drexel’s changes over the previous 70 years:
Fight on for Drexel,
We’ve got the stuff we need to win this game.
We’re gonna fight on for Drexel,
Take the Dragon on to fame.
Fight on for Drexel,
The gold and blue is on another spree.
We’re gonna fight, fight, fight, fight for Drexel U,
On to victory! (Four “D” yell and repeat chorus.)
“Four ‘D’ Yell” Chant
D-D-D-D … R-R-R-R … E-E-E-E … X-EL – X-EL
DREX-EL … DREX-EL
Fight – Team – Fight!!!
H. D. Cady, class of 1896, wrote that his school pin was “the regular design used when the Institute opened its door fifty years ago. The colors, orange and silver, were the colors in those days.” In the early 1920s, the Athletic Association adopted blue and gold for Drexel teams. Later, the University’s Board of Trustees approved the colors “gold with blue.”
Blue & Gold Days
Alumni and special friends gather during Blue & Gold Days each spring, celebrating reunions, sharing memories, seeing campus improvements and expansion and engaging in social and sports events.
Chippendale Tall-Case Astronomical Clock
Philadelphia’s most noted astronomer and mathematician during the 18th century, David Rittenhouse (1732-1796), built this clock in 1773. With 16 sets of chimes that play 10 tunes, it is regarded as the most important clock in America. The widow of George W. Childs, publisher of The Public Ledger, donated the clock to Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry in 1894; it is exhibited in the A.J. Drexel Picture Gallery in the Main Building.
Anthony J. Drexel, founder of the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry; Constantine Hering, Jacob Jeanes, Walter Williamson, founders of Homeopathic College of Pennsylvania (later Hahnemann Medical College); William J. Mullen, founder of Female Medical College (later Woman’s Medical College and Medical College of Pennsylvania).
Convocation and Founders Day
Convocation and Founders Day honors the legacy of Anthony J. Drexel as well as the founders of Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University, the predecessors of the Drexel University College of Medicine. As part of the same ceremony, Convocation welcomes new faculty to the University, and the Provost’s Medal for Excellence is awarded to a student.
Cyrus H.K. Curtis, the publisher of The Saturday Evening Post, purchased the large pipe organ built for Philadelphia’s Sesquicentennial Exposition of 1926, and presented it to the University of Pennsylvania. William Sylvane Thunder, the organist at Drexel and at Curtis’s suburban residence, suggested that Curtis might present a similar organ to Drexel. When Curtis asked how much it would cost, Thunder, having never considered the matter, blurted out, “$40,000.” Mr. Curtis promptly replied, “Have it installed.” In 1928, the Austin Organ Company of Hartford, Conn., placed in the Drexel Main Auditorium a 70-rank, four-manual instrument, according to Thunder’s specifications. The organ is maintained by an annual gift of Mary Louise (Mrs. Efrem) Zimbalist, daughter of Mr. Curtis.
The Drexel 100
Created in 1991, this group consists of the University’s most successful living alumni, recognized for their professional accomplishments. New inductions are made every two years.
White Coat Ceremony
At this ritual during the first week of medical school at the Drexel University College of Medicine, alumni present new medical students with their first white coat. The theme is professionalism, and the students recite the Hippocratic Oath for the first time. In their third year, they go through a similar rite, the Clinician’s Ceremony, reciting the ancient oath once again.
When John D. Lankenau needed money to finish his hospital, he went to his brother-in-law, Anthony J. Drexel. Drexel said he would give Lankenau the needed money if, in turn, Lankenau would will his painting collection to Drexel Institute. Many Lankenau paintings hang in the A.J. Drexel Picture Gallery along with paintings from Drexel family homes.
Portraits of Mr. Drexel and Mr. Childs
Two portraits in the boardroom of the Paul Peck Alumni Center are of the founder of the Institute, Anthony J. Drexel, and his close friend and business associate George W. Childs, publisher of The Public Ledger. The portraits were painted at the same time by the French artist, M. Benjamin Constant. Drexel stipulated that his portrait could be hung only after he had passed away.
Statue of Anthony J. Drexel
Moses Ezekiel (1844-1917) crafted the bronze statue of Anthony J. Drexel in 1904. On the University’s 75th anniversary, it was moved from Fairmount Park to 33rd and Market Streets, and it was moved in 2003 to its present site overlooking the pedestrian plaza at 32nd and Market. Kenneth Matheson, Drexel’s president from 1922 through 1931, was reported by his son (later a Drexel dean himself) to have snapped to attention before the statue when passing through Fairmount Park, saluting it as he had seen Alexander Van Rensselaer (Anthony J. Drexel’s son-in-law) do before. Ever after, the Matheson offspring waved to the statue when they passed by.
Peter Thompson Sailor Suit
“A Parisian Wedding” (1880), a painting by Julius L. Stewart (1855-1919) in the Paul Peck Alumni Center, purportedly depicts the marriage of a Drexel family member. The boy at the base of the steps is wearing a Peter Thompson Sailor Suit, very popular with young girls and boys at the time, and supposedly designed by an English tailor in America for Anthony J. Drexel’s son George.
The first dean of men, J. Peterson Ryder, had a penchant for punctuality, standing in the court, pocket-watch in hand, spurring on students late to class. He provided funds for the clock in the Great Court, inscribed, “Be on Time.”
Make Your Mark – Lancaster Walk
In 2001, Student Life began honoring incoming classes with dragon claw plaques on Lancaster Walk. The bronze plaques are presented at the end of New Student Week to encourage students to "Make Your Mark" at Drexel.
Cramps Shipyard and “Bon Voyage”
In 1895, Drexel's first President, James MacAlister, would often cancel classes and allow Drexel students to go to Cramps Shipyard along the Delaware River to watch the war ships set sail. In honor of this long lost tradition, the Drexel Traditions Program started a new one in 2008 in partnership with Student Life and the Alumni Association, entitled “Bon Voyage”, where undergraduate seniors now celebrate their accomplishments with an annual party hosted at a venue on or near the Delaware River.
The DAC Pack
The DAC Pack is comprised of students who are full of Drexel pride and spirit and has grown to become one of the largest and most visible student organizations at Drexel. During the 2008 and 2011 Drexel basketball seasons, the DAC Pack included almost 200 students who followed the men's basketball team all the way to the CAA Championships in Richmond, VA.
Homecoming is a time to gather together, welcome alumni back to campus, and showcase the University. It is a fun and exciting annual weekend of events, such as sporting events, pep rallies, tailgate parties, dances, parades, and the crowning of a Homecoming court. Homecoming has changed dramatically at Drexel University during the past thirty years. When Drexel had a football program, Homecoming was similar to the standard Homecoming held at other colleges and universities. In 1951, the first Homecoming Queen was crowned. The classic annual Homecoming events continued into the 1970s, when the football team was disbanded. Over twenty years later, in 1996, the Campus Activities Board brought Homecoming back to campus, calling the weekend of events centered on basketball games “DragonFest.” During the past ten years, Homecoming has taken many forms on the Drexel campus. Each year, the Campus Activities Board has made an effort to celebrate Homecoming, by sponsoring a variety of events including concerts, block parties, picnics, and the annual Crystal Ball dance. However, the activities have always lacked the true sense of Homecoming, and have failed to gain momentum as a tradition that every member of the Drexel community looks forward to. In January 2009, the Homecoming tradition returned to Drexel through the dedication and involvement on a campus wide level of Drexel students and partnering offices, including Student Life, Alumni Relations, Athletics, and the Traditions Program. A weeklong schedule of events and festivities reinvigorated campus pride and increased alumni involvement that, which now carries on each year to create spirit and excitement with students, alumni, and the entire campus community.
For more information or to get involved in Homecoming, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit drexel.edu/homecoming.
Put on by the Campus Activities Board (CAB), this week of events features a Battle of the Bands, the “Drexel Idol” competition, and other activities, culminating in a campus-wide concert with big-name performers. Recent Spring Jam artists have included The Roots, Lupe Fiasco, NERD, Major Lazer, and B.o.B.
The cornerstone of the career preparation Drexel provides has been the University's co-operative education program. Introduced at Drexel in 1919, the program has become integral to the University's educational experience. Through it, students alternate periods of study with periods of full-time professional employment related to their academic and career interests. Drexel's was among the first co-operative education programs in the nation, and today it is one of the largest and most diverse. Through co-op, Drexel students are currently employed by more than 1,500 businesses and organizations in 27 states and 12 countries.
Senior Class Toast with the President
Graduating seniors are invited to gather in the Great Court of the Main Building for a celebratory toast with the President. Typically held a week prior to Commencement, this special ceremony for the senior class is an opportunity for Drexel’s President and the Drexel University Alumni Association to recognize all senior students as they near commencement and officially welcome the graduating class into the Alumni Association. Seniors gather in the Great Court for a reception where the President congratulates the graduating class and leads the congratulatory toast. Class lapel pins are also distributed to all seniors, recognizing their transition from students to alumni, and a pinning ceremony is led by the chair of the Alumni Association Board of Governors. Following the pinning and class toast, Drexel Seniors gather on the Great Court staircase for a class photo with the President, the Dean of Students, the Alumni Association Board of Governors Chair & Mario the Magnificent.
Fun Trivia (Fact or Fiction)
1. Randell Hall, Creese Student Center, Hagerty Library and MacAlister Hall are all named after Drexel presidents.
FICTION – Randell Hall is not named after a former president. MacAlister Hall, Hagerty Library, Matheson Hall, Creese Student Center and the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building are the only buildings named after Drexel presidents. James MacAlister was the first president, Kenneth Matheson was the third president, James Creese was the seventh president, William Haggerty was the eighth president and Constantine Papadakis was the twelfth president.
2. Drexel has 18 NCAA Division I Athletic Teams: 10 Men’s Teams and 8 Women’s Teams.
FICTION - With nine NCAA Division I sports each for men and women, Drexel is one of the few colleges or universities in the nation that enjoys total parity between men’s and women’s athletics. Drexel men and women student-athletes receive the same athletic financial support overall.
3. The DAC opened in February 1975 and accommodates 2,500 spectators.
FACT - The John A. Daskalakis Athletic Center houses Drexel’s physical education, intramural and intercollegiate athletic programs. The DAC opened in February of 1975 and is located on the north side of Market Street between 33rd and 34th streets in the University City section of Philadelphia. The DAC now accommodates 2,500 spectators.
4. Drexel’s fraternity and sorority life community is over 100 years old.
FACT – The first fraternity, Lambda Upsilon Delta, was established in 1900. The first sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha, was founded in 1922. Tau Kappa Epsilon is the oldest current chapter, founded in 1919.
5. The “Mario the Magnificent” Dragon Statue was modeled after illustrations of the fantasy dragon in The Hobbit and received its nickname from a mythological Persian warrior.
FICTION - Dragon Statue: “Mario the Magnificent,” the bronze statue of the school mascot, the Drexel dragon, is the work of renowned Philadelphia sculptor Eric Berg. The statue and the Drexel Dragon Park at 33rd and Market Streets were dedicated on December 4, 2002; donations funded the artwork. Mario is 14 feet long, 10 feet high and weighs 4,100 pounds, on a 17-ton granite base. He is an easily visible landmark at which people can meet, especially when they are unfamiliar with the campus. “Mario the Magnificent” is named in honor of trustee emeritus, Mario V. Mascioli ’45.
6. The annual Egg Drop Competition is hosted by Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions – students, faculty, and staff create contraptions to protect an egg from the impact of a 10 foot drop.
FICTION – The egg drop is actually hosted by the College of Engineering during National Engineers Week. The school has held the competition for 16 years. Also, the Grade A large eggs are dropped various heights depending on the design of the competition which changes each year.
7. The Ryder Clock, hanging in the Great Court, urges students to be on time to class with the inscription, “The Early Bird Catches the Worm”.
FICTION - Ryder Clock: The first dean of men, J. Peterson Ryder, had a penchant for punctuality, standing in the court, pocket-watch in hand, spurring on students late to class. He provided funds for the clock in the Great Court, inscribed, “Be on Time.”
8. Before they became the Dragons, the school’s sports teams had been known by: The Blue & Gold, The Engineers, The Drexelites, and The Lexerds.
FICTION - Drexel Dragon: The Dragon has been the school’s mascot for nearly 80 years; there seems to be no special reason for its selection other than its obvious alliterative appeal. The Dragon represents ferocity and combativeness, desirable qualities in a mascot. Before they became Dragons, the school’s sports teams had been known by a variety of names, including the Blue & Gold, the Engineers and the Drexelites. The first published reference to the Drexel Dragons appears in a 1928 edition of The Triangle, in an article on the football team; a dragon logo appears on the jerseys of the men’s basketball team in a photo in the 1929 Lexerd.
9. The original school colors were “orange and silver”, not “blue and gold”.
FACT - Drexel Colors: H. D. Cady, class of 1896, wrote that his school pin was “the regular design used when the Institute opened its doors fifty years ago. The colors, orange and silver, were the colors in those days.” In the early 1920s, the Athletic Association adopted blue and gold for Drexel teams. Later, the University’s Board of Trustees approved the colors “gold with blue.”
10. For good luck on exams, students traditionally kiss the toe of the famous “Water Boy Statue”.
FICTION - Water Boy Statue: “The Water Boy,” one of The Drexel Collection’s proudest treasures, is by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904), the French sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. Originally called “The Alsatian Vintner,” the statue was designed as a fountain with a stream of water pouring from the cask into the boy’s mouth. While an aged patina covers the statue, the right toe remains a shining bronze—generations of Drexel students passing through the Main Building’s Great Court have rubbed the toe for good luck in exams.
To learn more, visit http://www.drexel.edu/creesestudentcenter/infodesk/legendsandtraditions.html.