The Pitt News

Lantern night shines through the storm

Nearly+1000+students+participated+in+Pitt%27s+annual+Lantern+Night.+%7C+Jordan+Mondell+%2F+Assistant+Visual+Editor
Nearly 1000 students participated in Pitt's annual Lantern Night. | Jordan Mondell / Assistant Visual Editor

Nearly 1000 students participated in Pitt's annual Lantern Night. | Jordan Mondell / Assistant Visual Editor

Nearly 1000 students participated in Pitt's annual Lantern Night. | Jordan Mondell / Assistant Visual Editor

By Samya Shabaz and Alexa Bakalarski / The Pitt News Staff

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Although stormy weather threatened to wreak havoc on Pitt’s oldest tradition, the lights of Lantern Night continued to burn Sunday night.

More than 950 first-year female students gathered in the Cathedral of Learning for Pitt’s 96th annual Lantern Night. At the event, female alumnae serve as flame bearers, lighting the lanterns held by new women on campus. This year’s Lantern Night was the first in the event’s history to be threatened by rain, although the organizers quickly reconfigured the event instead of canceling it.

The ceremony ––  which usually takes place in the Heinz Chapel –– was moved to the Commons Room in the Cathedral of Learning because of the thunderstorm, which also delayed the event about an hour. Students sat waiting along the walls of the Commons Room, but all of the lanterns were lit before 9 p.m. Elsewhere, the storm flooded streets and felled trees in Oakland.

The lantern lighting, a tradition that began in 1920, represents passing the “light of learning” from one generation of female students to the next. The Pitt Alumni Association, the Alumnae Council and the Division of Student Affairs hosted the event.

“It’s a beautiful ceremony and tradition to have at Pitt,” Burke said. “I’m a sap for sentimentals.”

Although the lanterns differ slightly in their appearance each year ––  for example, students’ names no longer appear on the lanterns ––  the meaning of the lanterns remains the same, according to Marilyn Burke, who has been volunteering at Lantern Night for about 20 years.  

The tradition began in 1920 a few days after the 19th amendment passed and granted women the right to vote.  The year before, Pitt hired its first “Dean of Women,” although women had been at the school since 1895.

Kimberly Bracken, who graduated from Pitt with a degree in electrical engineering in 1989 and served as one of the 46 flame bearers at this year’s event, said she missed having the ceremony in Heinz Chapel, where the organizers could turn off the lights and let the lanterns glow. Considering the circumstances, however, Bracken said she was impressed by how everybody worked together to reorganize the event despite the weather.

Bracken came to the event to light a lantern for her daughter, first-year engineering major Kathleen Bracken. Bracken remembered how much she enjoyed her Lantern Night as a first-year student in 1985.

“I think it’s a really nice tradition and it stresses the importance of learning to students,” Bracken said. “I don’t [still have my lantern], but I wish I did. I ripped my house apart, but I couldn’t find it.”

This year’s lanterns had blue and gold ribbons attached to the lantern’s handle, which read “August 28, 2016 — Pitt’s Oldest Tradition — Pitt Annual Lantern Night.”  

Khadija-Awa Diop, president of Pitt’s National Pan-Hellenic Council, and Emily Johnson, president of Pitt’s Collegiate Panhellenic Association, welcomed the students with advice to treat others well and continually pursue their dreams.

Diop referred to the book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey and encouraged the students to have positive interactions with people by following the Golden Rule ––  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Johnson followed Diop’s advice with a piece of her own, telling the students to “follow their gut and trust themselves.

“Life can slow you down, but no step toward your dreams is a step too small,” Johnson said.

Pitt alum Alka Patel gave the keynote address, complete with a visual for students to consider after leaving.

Patel told the students to imagine three circles — “you,” “goal,” and “Pitt community,” and to focus on the three of them intersecting throughout their college years. Together, she said, the three circles will put students on the “path to success in the next four years and beyond.”

“It’s easy to go through the motions of every day, but it’s more important to make sure that those motions are for a purpose,” Patel said.

Sami Robertson, an undecided first-year student, likened the event to when her mother passed down the Torah at her Bat Mitzvah. Robertson said Lantern Night promoted the concept of women working for each other, instead of the societal norm of women working against each other.

“We pass down the tradition of going to college and being women in college [at Lantern Night],” Robertson said. “[Lantern night] really furthers the idea that we need to support each other and strengthen our friendship… It’s a little bit cheesy, but it’s a nice kind of cheesy.”

 

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Lantern night shines through the storm