Traditions at Hesston College: Some thrive, others fade

Students at Mod Olympics 2017. Photo by Larry Bartel, Hesston College Marketing and Communications

By Teo Soler, Business Manager & Contributing Writer

Erb Moon, Walk-a-Mile, Pick-a-Date… Here are few of the numerous Hesston College traditions. They are part of the community and every student life on campus. Carried on from year to year, today’s traditions are kept alive thanks to the commitment of individuals at Hesston.

Maybe the most recognizable tradition, though, is the Bills and Normas, which passes to every new class as the sophomores maintain their legacy, choosing new students at the end of the year.

John Murray, director of international admissions, remembers the beginnings of this group of students from his years at Hesston back in the 80’s.

The Bills actually started when I was a student at Hesston College,” Murray said. “As I recall the story, four guys known for having fun in creative ways, were at the Etcetera Shop in Newton and found four work uniform-style shirts with the name ‘Bill’ embroidered on the front. They bought the shirts and became ‘the Bills.’ When they graduated they passed the shirts on to freshmen.”  

Still today, the Bills and Normas are a living vestige. They still play a big role in community events.

“The Bills and the Normas is a great tradition that enhances the campus atmosphere and spirit,” Murray said.

 Arbis Vraja is a newly selected Bill.

 Bills and Normas have been a thing in Hesston college for around 40 years straight,” he said. “It is a tradition that you can not find in a lot of colleges. This tradition is one of the reasons why Hesston college is special.”

As some traditions gain in popularity, others are on the verge of disappearing.

 Sports attendance is one under threat, according to Vice President of Admissions, Rachel Swartzendruber-Miller.

 I wish it was still a tradition to attend sporting events,” she said. “When I was at Hesston we packed into the basketball games and cheered like crazy.”

 A former Lark volleyball player, Swartzendruber-Miller describes packed sporting events where “the crowd was on fire,” where students would shout out coordinated cheers at soccer games and even gather to barbecue before some games. School spirit, she says, was a alive and well.

 “We showed up for each other,” she said. “It was important.”

 Another tradition that seems to be waning: Erb Moon. On the first Sunday of every month, students gather at Kauffman Court to run across campus starting at 12 a.m., to “moon” Erb. But sophomore Noah Yoder thinks the practice is slowly dying.

 “Last year we felt a sense of tradition, it felt bigger than us,” Yoder said. “We wanted to keep on doing it, not necessarily because we thought it was a good idea. We did not want it to die.”

 A long winter and a class of uninterested freshman has considerably reduced the attendance. But Yoder adds that continuing this tradition falls on the sophomores.

 “Rising sophomores have to hype it up, approach freshman with the attitude that it is part of being a resident of Kauffman court,” Yoder said. “Make it an event that is worth coming to. The future of Erb Moon is in the hands of rising sophomores, keep the tradition going or are we going to be the people who watch it die.”

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