University tradition shines at Lantern Night


By Danielle Fox / Staff Writer

Pitt alumna Deborah Walker joked that the female freshman students she addressed had received many letters from the University, but she had one more letter to share with them.

In it, she shared with the young women how Pitt has shaped her life and how it will shape theirs.

“Everything I am, everything I have achieved and everything I will become is a result of my 30 years at Pitt,” said Walker, who manages the Office of Student Conduct and obtained her undergraduate degree at Pitt in 2001 and master’s degree in 2003.

Walker was addressing the more than 630 female students and 45 alumnae who took part in the 93rd annual Lantern night, an annual event at the Heinz Memorial Chapel Sunday evening.

The tradition, which is Pitt’s oldest, began in 1920. Since then, female alumni have served as “flame bearers,” carrying candles and lighting the lanterns of new Pitt students in a night that is meant to symbolize the transference of the “light of learning.”

Cheryl Huttenhower, Pitt alumna and mother of third-generation Pitt student Danielle Huttenhower, lit her daughter’s candle Sunday night as a symbol of the passing of knowledge from generation to generation.

“It’s great that she is going here and following in my footsteps,” said the elder Huttenhower, a 1982 Arts and Sciences graduate who also holds two master’s degrees from Pitt. 

Lantern Night Chairwoman Juliana Shayne invoked tradition in her opening remarks to attendees.

“As you participate, you are demonstrating your wish to become an integral part of the University,” she told the female students. “As you seek knowledge, remember the first students and faculty of years ago in your efforts as you begin to follow them.”

Two student speakers, Pitt senior Carolyn Lewis, president of the Collegiate Panhellenic Association at Pitt, and Dani Perdue, president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, advised the students on how to make the best of their years at Pitt.

“Find something that truly challenges you,” said Lewis. “Something that challenges you to your core. Makes you think about the world in a different light and changes you as person.”

Perdue, a second-generation Pitt student, advised the young women to “think ahead to what legacy you would like to leave and take   roles that will help you to make that legacy a reality.”

For many, the night was a reminder of what it means to be a female student at a university and the roads it took to get there. This year’s lantern-night attendance was the largest crowd of female students at the event in the University’s history, and both students and alumnae remembered times when females were not so prominent in university settings. 

Walker said she was not just looking out on a sea of female faces, but was staring at a crowd of future doctors, lawyers, engineers and specialists of all professions.

Freshman Emily Sullivan said that for a long time, women have had to fight to express themselves.

“Carrying on this tradition says, ‘Look how far we came,’ and it’s empowering,” she said.