March 01, 2016 8:45AM
This week, Pittsburg State University students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the community will participate in a tradition almost as old as the university itself. On Thursday, March 3, PSU will observe its 110th Apple Day with a convocation that marks an event that secured the fledgling school’s future.
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 respected institutions of higher learning in Kansas.
In his book, “Pittsburg State University: A Photographic History of the First 100 Years,” Randy Roberts, along with 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. Almost immediately, 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 in a tradition that has come to be known as Apple Day or Commemoration Day.
This week’s activities begin with an Apple Scavenger hunt on Tuesday, March 1. On Wednesday, the Gorilla Activities Board will sponsor the annual Apple Pie and Dessert Baking Contest. Judging will begin at 11 a.m. in the Overman Student Center and after the winners are chosen, samples will be available to the public.
On Apple Day (Thursday), PSU Alumni and Constituent relations will host a reception at 2 p.m. in the Overman Student Center for the 2016 Ralf Thomas Distinguished Service Award Recipients, who will be recognized for their service to the university at the convocation. This year’s honorees are Monica Murnan and Shirley Palmer.
The Apple Day Convocation will begin at 3 p.m. in the Sharon K. Dean Recital Hall in McCray Hall. The keynote speaker will be Kendall Gammon, special assistant to the president and former NFL great. Also at the convocation, the 2016 Outstanding Faculty Awards and Golden Gorilla Awards will be announced.
Following the convocation, members of the PSU Faculty Association will continue the tradition of distributing apples to students.