The 1st Day of Gracious Living
On May 13, 1974, the administration declared a “Day of Gracious Living”, canceling class for the day to engage students in a day of fun. Though proposals for the day had originally been rejected by the Kalamazoo College Student Commission, the day was instituted anyway. Students jumped at the chance to get to the South Haven beaches via over-capacity cars and vans. Students spent the day in the sun, playing volleyball and completing the mandatory administrative assignment of abstaining from class work altogether.
The tradition of the Day of Gracious Living continued year after year, always falling around the same day (Wednesday, Seventh to Ninth Week of class). Though most students and faculty enjoyed the condoned day free of work, the day just “happened” to fall in the middle of the busiest period of class. Some complained about having to rework entire curriculum schedules. Others argued that a day of doing little or no work contributed to little more than sloth among the student body.
The Twister of 1980
The day took on a much different meaning exactly six years after its inception. On Tuesday, May 13, 1980, a massive tornado struck the city of Kalamazoo viciously and suddenly during the middle of the day. The twister traveled almost directly down W. Main st. into downtown, destroying houses, cars, businesses and anything else in its path. After the devastation, several people lost their lives, and damaged totaled more than $50 million to the city.
Kalamazoo College was lucky enough only to sustain minor damages — the tornado clipped the tennis courts and damaged only a few cars, luckily there were no injuries to students here. However in the wake of the disaster, many Kalamazoo College students decided to graciously weather the storm. Students formed groups and toured the local community for damage, helping residents and businesses clean up the debris and damage. In this way students spent their Day of Gracious Living giving back to the community, with much praise and thanks from local residents.
Day of Gracious Living Today
Today, the tradition continues. Now fully behind the Day of Gracious Living, the Student Commission president chooses the day off, with no one knowing the date except for him or her and the administration. Students continue to make the trek to the beach, with Student Commission providing free transportation to South Haven.
In 2005, Jeanne Hess’ Mind and Body II class decided to do something a bit different to celebrate the day. In the spirit of living graciously, they handed out water, vitamins and suntan lotion to students in celebration of the day, reminding them to stay healthy even while relaxing on the beach. As well, students filled out “thank yous” to other students and faculty, as well as facilities management and to those who provide food service to the school.
Kalamazoo College would like everyone to continue living graciously, keeping in the spirit of the 1980 cleanup where so many students helped in support of their local community.