Oglethorpe Day is an annual celebration held in February to celebrate Oglethorpe University’s namesake, James Edward Oglethorpe, and honor his arrival in the “New World” in Savannah, Georgia. First implemented in the late 1980s, this event offers many activities for students and faculty to engage in, improving campus interactions. Beginning at 12:45 p.m. in the Academic Quad, Oglethorpe treats its attendees with food, fun, and a speech from a special guest.
Most Universities celebrate a “founder’s day” or a “founding day.” However, Oglethorpe Day is categorized as a “namesake day,” since the university was named after James Edward Oglethorpe, not founded by him. The day is held to celebrate how General Oglethorpe’s ideals continue to inspire our university and state at large.
After classes released at 12:45 pm, students and faculty swarmed the Academic Quad to enjoy refreshments and conversation. The masses then slowly gathered around the perimeter of the Academic Quad to witness one of the most important events of the day: The Petrels of Fire Race.
The annual tradition features students racing around the Quad in hopes of completing a lap before the carillon bells strike 12; since classes release late, the bells are altered to chime 12 times at 1:00 p.m. There has only ever been one person to achieve this incredible feat. In 1998, Mark Olas, a past member of Oglethorpe’s soccer team, completed the lap around the quad within 30.5 seconds.
The Petrels of Fire came about when a group of students in the 1980’s were inspired to create their own race after watching the movie, “Chariots of Fire.” This event was one of the first activities that formed the tradition of Oglethorpe Day.
After the race was completed, students and faculty processed to the Conant Performing Arts Center to listen to a special guest speaker. This year, Oglethorpe University welcomed Carrie Hessler-Radelet, former Director of the Peace Corps and President and CEO of Project Concern International. Radelet spoke on her experiences with the Peace Corps and other humanitarian work she has done. Her ideals and message spoke to the standard that Oglethorpe University holds and inspired many students to learn more about humanitarian work during her brief question session at the end of her speech.
“It really emphasizes what kind of life you can develop with an Oglethorpe education,” said Oglethorpe University Student Government Association President, Anna Gandy.
Other speakers that Oglethorpe University had speak at past Oglethorpe Days include Derreck Kayongo, CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta; Jason Carter, former Georgia state senator; Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons; Natalie Allen, CNN International Anchor; Tom Johnson, former President of CNN, and many more.
These speakers all embody traits that Oglethorpe University cherishes and represents through our growing traditions and unique history.