Senior Walk’s Facelift

The University of Arkansas’ Senior Walk is carving a new path

 

IT’S A STRANGE thing to have your name enshrined, immortalized to a degree. It feels like it’s something that should be reserved for great leaders, grand achievements, heroic actions and the like. But nevertheless, I am one such person whose name has been engraved in stone. As is my father. As are many of my friends. None of us can claim to have done anything truly monumental, yet our names—along with nearly 200,000 others—are emblazoned in rock, where they’ll remain for many, many years to come. (Over a hundred years if the past century is any indication.) All thanks to one of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville’s longest-held traditions: Senior Walk. 

Since 1905, graduates from the U of A have had their names inscribed on the expansive sidewalk system used to navigate the campus. Most of the previous classes, going back to the inaugural class of 1876, were retroactively added in 1930, (the class of 1904 slipped theirs in shortly after the class of 1905). 

Much of Senior Walk, however—particularly the sections belonging to the earliest classes—has seen a lot of foot traffic over those 115 years, and that takes a toll. Deterioration of those original sections, located on the east side of Old Main, has led to safety and accessibility concerns, not to mention rendering some of the graduates’ names illegible. That’s why back in February, the university started working to renovate the section of sidewalk containing the first 50 years of classes, from 1876 to 1924. (There were no graduating classes from 1887 and 1895.) 

The renovation project, scheduled to be completed later this year, will replace the original brick and concrete sections with sandstone, but the university hopes to preserve those hand-lettered sections of the walk, potentially as a permanent exhibit in the first-floor corridor of Old Main near where Senior Walk originated. There are plans to add historic markers at the site of the original walk as well. 

In the meantime, use the map below to take a virtual stroll down Senior Walk and learn about the tradition’s storied history. 


Step by Step 

Getting some concrete facts about a U of A tradition

1. Senior Walk was begun by the senior class of 1905. It’s also the first year that the abbreviation for a master’s degree was used, in this case for Lucy Byrd Mock, MA, the woman who designed the first golf course in Arkansas: a five-hole layout on her uncle’s farm south of Prairie Grove that included both putting greens and fairways.

2. Through 1924, the task of adding the graduates’ names to the wet cement was given to one of the graduating seniors, who added them by hand. The university took over installation the following year, using raised-letter stamps to impress the names in the concrete.

3. In the early years, freshmen were not allowed to walk on Senior Walk until after Thanksgiving unless the Razorback football team won the Homecoming game. Luckily for the freshmen, the walk didn’t cover near as much of the campus then as it does today (and the campus was a fraction of its current size).

4. For many years, superstition held that it was bad luck to step on the class of 1900 because all the graduates had met untimely and tragic deaths. Most of that class, however, actually lived long productive lives.

5. In 1986, University Physical Plant employees invented the Sand Hog, a machine designed specifically for the purpose of etching the names in Senior Walk.

6. Until 1964, the longest name on Senior Walk was Charles Schiminielplennig. Use of the Sand Hog made it easier to get more letters in a name, which came in handy for class of 1999 graduates Vladimir Alexandrovich Kobzah and Wan Saidatul Imma Wan Ibrahim who have the longest and second-longest names, respectively, on the walk to this day.

7. There are Piggs, Sows and Hogges scattered among the Razorback names on Senior Walk.

8. The best “middle name” may have to go to Dan the Man Schuerich in the class of 1999.

9. Former university presidents, chancellors, members of the board of trustees, and honorary degree recipients are found on separate walks near Silas Hunt Hall.

10. By 2020, Senior Walk stretched about 4 miles, and if you laid the names on the walk end-to-end, they’d stretch all the way from Fayetteville to Van Buren. The class of 2019 will have their names inscribed sometime this spring, with 2020’s portion of the walk installed the following spring.


Notable UA Grads: 

Nettie Barnett, 1876 (first name on Senior Walk) 

Veronica Campbell-Brown, 2006 

Barry Hannah, 1966 (MA), 1968 (MFA) 

  1. Lynn Harris, 1977 

Fay Jones, 1950 

Jerry Jones, 1965, 1970 (MA) 

Stacy Lewis, 2008 

Nic Pizzolato, 2005 (MFA) 

Charles Portis, 1958 

Donna Axum Whitworth, 1966, 1969 (MA) 

Another beloved U of A landmark that recently got a face-lift? Spoofer’s Stone, a large piece of limestone on Old Main lawn that has long served as a meeting place for students, was severely damaged back in February when it was hit by a truck during the Senior Walk construction. (Ironically, the stone ended up on the lawn when it was leftover from the construction of Old Main in 1875.) But the landmark has already been repaired thanks to the work of a master stone carver.