March 02, 2015 11:45AM
The Pittsburg State University students who participate in the apple scavenger hunt, the apple pie and dessert contest, the apple pie eating contest and the all-university convocation this week may not always realize it, but they will be carrying on a tradition almost as old as the university, itself.
Every year since 1907, students and the community have paused to reflect on a series of events in the Kansas Legislature that in effect assured that Pittsburg State University would not only continue, but would take its place among the institutions of higher learning in Kansas.
In his book, “Pittsburg State University: A Photographic History of the First 100 Years,” Randy Roberts and co-author Shannon Phillips describe in detail the events that gave birth to the university’s Apple Day tradition.
Founded in 1903, the Kansas State Manual Training Normal School Auxiliary, began in a borrowed building in downtown Pittsburg. The effort to secure state support to build a permanent building for the new school met with strong opposition from other state schools.
The school’s founder and principal, R.S. Russ, along with faculty and the Pittsburg mayor, lobbied hard in the legislature to get the lawmakers to pass the appropriation. In doing so, Russ broke a legislative rule by sitting in a legislator’s seat during the session. The Pittsburg delegation was fined a barrel of apples for the impropriety, which was paid and distributed among the legislators.
The appropriation was approved, however, and when the triumphant Pittsburg delegation returned to Pittsburg, a joyful assembly of students followed the legislature’s lead and fined the faculty a barrel of apples, which they paid and distributed to the students. They have done so every year since.
This year, the Student Activities Council has planned a number of activities to commemorate this pivotal time in PSU’s history. The activities begin with an Apple Hunt Tuesday through Thursday. Each apple found is worth $20.
A new activity this year is an apple pie eating contest at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3, in Gorilla Crossing in the Overman Student Center. The winning contestant will receive $150.
On Wednesday, March 4, students, faculty and staff will compete in the annual Apple Pie and Apple Dessert Contest. Judging will take place at 11 a.m. in the lower level of the Wilkinson Alumni Center.
Thursday, March 5, is Apple Day. Activities will begin with pavers in Champions Plaza, just east of Carnie Smith Stadium. At 2 p.m., the public is invited to a reception at the Wilkinson Alumni Center to honor this year’s Distinguished Service Award recipients, Jan Allai and Pete and Shirley Esch.
At 3 p.m. on Thursday, PSU will hold an all-university convocation. The keynote speaker will be Andy Tompkins, president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents, who will speak on “Servant Leadership.” At the convocation, the students will announce their choice for the 2015 Outstanding Faculty Awards.