The History of Kalamazoo College’s Day of Gracious Living
If you're newer to the Kalamazoo area, you may not know about the long-standing tradition called the Day of Gracious Living.
By the name alone, it sounds like a day where, no matter where you go, you're expected to act graciously. Instead, it's a day where students of Kalamazoo College get a break from classes to just enjoy the day.
How Did This Start?
It all started on May 17th of 1974 when the administration of Kalamazoo College proposed the Day of Gracious Living. It would be a day where all classes were canceled so that students could, "engage in a day of fun." While a bit vague, it sounds like a no-brainer, right?
As it turns out, the Kalamazoo College Student Commission originally rejected the proposal but, administrators went through with it anyway. See more here.
Why Was it Rejected At First?
Both faculty members and, apparently, students complained that the day fell in the middle of a very busy time in the semester. The faculty didn't want to rearrange the curriculum and it was thought that the students would be encouraged to be lazy.
Now, fully embraced by all attending students (I mean, who would pass up a beach day over a day of classes?) during the Day of Gracious Living, you should expect to see college students out and about in shopping areas, local beaches, and parks too.
The fun part? No one knows the exact date for the Day of Gracious Living from year to year. Instead of it being a set date, the Student Commission president chooses the date which is then agreed upon by the administration. Free rides are then provided to students traveling to South Haven, as is tradition.
The Year it Looked a Little Different
Sometimes, part of the Day of Gracious Living is various students handing out things like sunscreen to fellow students and creating thank you cards for faculty too. That stems from a rather terrifying year in Kalamazoo's history.
On May 13th of 1980, a tornado touched down in Kalamazoo causing nearly $50 million in damages. The tornado was only on the ground for about 16 minutes but in that time it managed to destroy 11 miles of the town, killing five people, and injuring nearly 80 people.
That day, the students of Kalamazoo College used their Day of Gracious Living,
formed groups and toured the local community for damage, helping residents and businesses clean up the debris and damage.
You can see a newspaper clipping from that day at kzoo.edu.
As far as I can tell, from a very quick internet search at least, there aren't any other colleges that not only allow but advocate for a day off during the semester for their students. It's just one more thing that makes the city of Kalamazoo so unique.
There's a short documentary on the Day of Gracious Living which you can see below: