Washington Prom 1969

The Washington Prom, first held in 1893, was one of the University’s oldest, longest-lasting traditions. The final ball, which included the crowning of Miss University of Chicago, was held in 1969. (UChicago Photographic Archive, apf4-01257, University of Chicago Library)

Alumni poll: The march of time

What’s the best tradition? UChicago alumni have spoken.

In an online poll this fall, alumni got to declare their favorite College tradition.

The winner: Scav, with 34 percent of the vote—just beating out Dollar Shake Day, with 33 percent. The other two ballot options were the Latke-Hamantash Debate (21 percent) and Kuvia (12 percent). See the national and global breakdown of the votes at uchicagotradition.com.

(If the winner in the United States had been determined by an Electoral College–type system, the result might have been different, given that Dollar Shake Day carried California, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, while Latke-Hamantash won in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina.)

After casting their votes, alumni could share stories about their favorite traditions, including such write-in contenders as Washington Prom, the Lascivious Costume Ball, and Sleepout (an annual festival/ordeal in the days before online course registration).

Some excerpts of the memories that alumni contributed:


My favorite thing people ask about Scav is, “So what do you win?” When I say, “Nothing,” they’re shocked.—Erin Hart, AB’16

Scav 2003: My first year. Item 156: A picture of a National Geographic editor in a swimsuit (4 points). I called home as early on Thursday as I could to see if my mom still knew anyone working there. My dad groggily answered the phone: “Are you dead?” At Judgment, I had the only un-Photoshopped completion of the item.—Joan Wolkerstorfer, AB’06

One of the highlights of my 25th College reunion was sharing the Scav tradition with my then-14-year-old son. We formed a team with a grad student and a mom-and-daughter pair at sign-in, quickly exchanged mobile numbers, and sprinted across the quads clutching our lists. We snapped photos in the Heisman Trophy stance, tweeted questions at Rockefeller Chapel, choreographed a phoenix dance for campus squirrels, and begged for a selfie (50 points) with UChicago alum Harvey Levin [JD’75] of TMZ. We won!—Janet Cho, AB’90

My future husband put an entire orange (with peel) in his mouth at the scavenger hunt.—Anne Skove, AB’91

Look, Scav Hunt got my name in the New Yorker. It’s that powerful.—Grace Fisher, AB’12


Even the roughest week could be righted with a dollar shake from C-Shop.Greg Nance, AB’11

I sometimes ate the shake as my main meal of the day.—Sunny Sue Chang Jonas, AB’99

Something that was within our reach, no matter how we were doing otherwise. Inclusive and delicious.Shaz Rasul, AB’97, SM’08

Dollar shake day was legit.—Alex Mobashery, AB’17


It was wonderful having Ted Cohen [AB’62, 1939–2014] moderate the Latke-Hamantash Debate, and he is much missed for this and the many other ways he enriched the University of Chicago.—Kevin Robbins, AB’94

Read Cohen’s short story “Ethics Class” on page 26.—Ed.

I love the creativity of the arguments and how the professors dive into the challenge of taking their expertise—no matter what the subject—and creating an argument for one or the other. Also, that it is ALWAYS a draw, so we have to do it again next year.—Margo Lynn Hablutzel, AB’83

Seeing the cosmic in the trivial; arguing over size, shape, taste, texture, history, culture, meaning, and theology; employing humor as the supreme tool of intellectual inquiry; devoting the finest faculty and student minds to the undertaking; presenting oral advocacy at its finest; pursuing rational discourse through courteous debate; plus empiricists get to sample the subjects at the post-debate reception: What could be more University of Chicago?—Joseph Morris, AB’73, JD’76


Sonia Jacobson and I [both College advisers at the time] created this festival in 1983. I found the name Kuviasungnerk in a book on Inuit life. At UChicago, it is a time to look winter in the face and say, “I got this.”Jean Treese, AB’66

Kuvia started while I was an undergraduate. I convinced a few of my friends that “Kuviasungnerk” was an Icelandic word for “Winter festival of the summer flowers.”—Samuel Rebelsky, SB’85, SM’87, PhD’93


SLEEPOUT!!!! I was lucky enough to experience the last one ever.Matilda Szydagis, AB’95

The Shapiro Art Collection. We were allowed to rent a piece of fine art for the quarter. To get a good choice we lined up the day before. I think numbers were issued, deli-style. I had a Chagall once. Someone else got Picasso’s naked men dancing (title forgotten).—Pua Ford, AB’74

The University restarted the Art to Live With tradition in 2017.—Ed.

Geek Bus, i.e. the Shoreland primal scream that greeted the late bus coming home from the Reg during finals week.—Catherine Skeen, AB’91, AM’02, PhD’03

My favorite: George Washington Memorial Prom on February 21, 1941; first date, fell in love, married her [Shirley DoBos, SB’43, 1922–2011] in 1943 for 68 years.Bradley Patterson, AB’42, AM’43