The College’s annual Founders’ Day celebration took place Thursday, March 9, honoring the anniversary of the establishment of Lafayette in 1826. As the countdown to the College’s bicentennial in 2026 continues, members of the Lafayette community near and far honored the founding of Lafayette in various ways.

On campus

Students woke up to 197 leopard paw prints (representing 197 years of operation) on the Quad as well as the opportunity to participate in a scavenger hunt in order to win a gift card to Mojo’s or WaWa. Signs across the Quad shared historical facts about Founders’ Day, which is not a new event at Lafayette. The first known “Founders’ Day” was actually held in connection with the dedication of Pardee Hall in 1874. 

Two events took place for the campus community. Students, faculty, and staff were treated to Lafayette-themed ice cream from Owowcow in Farinon from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and more than 300 students wrote thank-you cards and notes of gratitude to donors who chose to support Lafayette. Remy Oktay ’24, engineering studies and environmental studies double major and Creative and Performing Arts Scholar, was on hand with his team raffling off pens crafted from wood pruned from trees on campus. Oktay rallied friends with woodworking experience to form LafQuill Co. They recently established a workshop on campus to produce the pens. Stay tuned for more updates from LafQuill Co. as more pens become available!

President Hurd smiles, holding ice cream, next to Remy Oktay '24. A maroon, white, and leopard-print balloon arch is in the background of Farinon.

Remy Oktay ’24 with President Nicole Hurd

 “I saw all this beautiful wood from our old growth trees getting pruned and thrown out, and connected the dots with a COVID hobby I picked up: pen making,” Oktay explains. “I love trees, repurposing waste, and making art, and this project is bringing those three together in a unique way that connects the Lafayette community with the history and natural beauty of our campus arboretum. Making pens from trees that have been growing alongside the Lafayette community for over a hundred years is an honor.” 

At 5 p.m. the celebration continued on the Quad with a DJ, Founders’ Day cupcakes, and hot chocolate. Long lines formed as students gathered to enjoy complimentary food from two food trucks serving poutine (Flying V) and gourmet sliders (Slide on By). President Nicole Hurd spoke about the significance of Founders’ Day and the importance of the community coming together as the College looks forward to a larger celebration in conjunction with its bicentennial in 2026. The evening concluded with the Quad glowing in maroon and white lights.

Across the U.S. and internationally

Twenty-six Wine 3/9 events are continuing to take place throughout the month of March for alumni to gather with fellow classmates and toast to Lafayette’s founding. The first event took place in London March 6. Wine 3/9 events will wrap up March 20 in Vero Beach, Fla.

Surpassing the Target

With a goal of raising $1 million in 24 hours, the Lafayette community rallied from midnight March 9 to midnight March 10 resulting in $1,213,770 for students, academics, athletics, and more. In addition, more than 1,600 alumni, parents, and friends participated in Founders’ Day in other ways by sharing personal stories, signing up to volunteer, attending events, and signing notes of appreciation.

“It was wonderful to see so many members of the Lafayette community honoring the College during this special moment,” explained Kim Spang, Vice President for Development and College Relations. “Founders’ Day is a special time at Lafayette as it not only is a recognition of the nearly 200-year history of the College, but it is a time for us to support students and programs as we plan for Lafayette’s bicentennial in 2026.”

Graphic reads: $1,213,770 raised in 24 hours; 1600+ engagements (includes event attendance, volunteerism, making a contribution, submitting a story, and more); 170 thank you and gratitude notes written; 26 Wine 3/9 events (including 2 international); 2 campus celebrations where Lafayette faculty, staff, and students enjoyed 500 cupcakes, 280 cups of Lafayette themed ice cream, 275 sliders, and 250 poutine dishes.Transformational gifts were announced March 9, including a new endowment created by the Brothers of Lafayette Football alumni group to help student-athletes, led by Quincy Miller ’97, Jonathan Starks ’96, and Harrison Bailey III ’95. The new Brothers of Lafayette Football Fund will support additional mentoring and leadership opportunities on and off campus, internships, externships, and other early career experiences. 

I wanted to create a space for Lafayette College students who have traditionally been economically disadvantaged to have the same Lafayette experience as those students with a wealth of financial resources,” Jonathan Starks ’96 says. “This endowment will allow students to take advantage of opportunities that they otherwise would not have been able to participate in.”

Additional gifts announced March 9 include a fund created by president and chief executive officer of Levi Strauss & Co. Chip Bergh ’79 H’22 to establish the Ilan Peleg Award to recognize outstanding faculty, among many. The existing capital project planned to enhance soccer facilities at Metzgar, Gummeson Grounds: Home of Mike Bourger ’44 Field at Oaks Stadium also received a healthy dose of support from alumni. Since the lead gift from Peter Gummeson ’80 to support this initiative was announced last year at this time, 24 additional gifts have been received. To date, more than $3 million has been raised through philanthropy and institutional co-investment toward the final goal and total project cost. Fundraising continues for this important capital project. 

Creating opportunities for students to participate in meaningful research during their time at Lafayette continues to be a passion and priority for many alumni. Heidi Ludwick Hanson ’91, who has previously supported research opportunities at the College, along with the Portlock Black Cultural Center and sustainability initiatives, contributed a lead gift to support EXCEL research. 

“I have always been passionate about supporting student success,” Hanson explains. “I am excited to foster research and learning opportunities for students as they work with faculty to broaden their minds and experiences, and become prepared to be effective leaders and global citizens.”

The inspiration behind supporting students and programs varies by alumni, parents, and friends but the impact of their generosity can always be connected back to students, and their success during their time at Lafayette and after they graduate. Alumna Dina Manoway ’83 chose to support a scholarship that she created to honor her late husband. 

“The education I received from Lafayette opened many opportunities in my career,” says Manoway. “I started this scholarship to honor my late husband in hopes of giving someone a chance they would not have had to perhaps find a cure for cancer or some other devastating disease.”

Categorized in: Alumni, Featured News, Giving News, News and Features