About Founders Day

Founders Day was started in 1938 by Miss Grace Whitridge, both to commemorate the day Rev. Dr. Edward Duffield Neill obtained the charter for Macalester from the Minnesota Legislature on March 5, 1874, and to celebrate the 89th birthday of James Wallace who served as college president for 12 years. The tradition of celebrating Founders Day continued through the early 1970s and was revived again in March 2004. In the early days, the event included a lecture in the gymnasium and birthday cake. The cake was ceremoniously carried into the gymnasium on a special litter borne by four men dressed in kilts as bagpipers the procession.


  • 1st year held
  • Anniversary of founding on March 5, 1874, and to celebrate the 89th birthday of James Wallace who served as college president for 12 years

    • The celebration was held on March 12
  • The founding committee was comprised of Grace B. Whitridge (chairman), Dr. O. T. Walter, C.A. Jensen, John P. Hall, and Helen Stratte.
  • Part of the celebration included a radio broadcast that would reach Macalester students and Alumni from around the world. The broadcast hosted Grace Whitridge, James Wallace, the Glee Club, John Hall, and Frank Paskewitz of the  board of trustees


  • The broadcast across the world was repeated
  • The cake was 55 pounds!
  • The suggestion to begin a Student Loan Fund was given on the 1939 Founders Day and approved one month later (MW 5/18/1939 pg1)


  • The 1940 Founders Day program published pictures of Founders Day celebrations across the country


  • No dinner with the Founders Day celebration because of food and gasoline rations but they still had the cake (dinner reinstated in 1946)


  • 31 Macalester clans around the world had celebrations
  • Honored 12 faculty members who have been working at Mac for 20+ years


  • Historical exhibit sponsored by First National Bank of St. Paul, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the Great Northern Railway Co of early Minnesota added to the celebration



  • There might have been a gap in Founders Day celebrating, during this time period. More research to be done, but no flyers or Mac Weekly articles can be found



  • semi-formal gala held for Rosenberg’s inauguration and 2004 was also the college’s 130th birthday; event was enjoyed so much that Founders Day was brought back


  • Catharine Deaver Lealtad, the first African American woman to graduate from Macalester, becomes featured in the Founders Faces on postcards and invitations


  • The Founders Day celebration was 70s themed, featuring live music by Boogie Wonderland
  • The Founders Faces now include both Catharine Deaver Lealtad and Esther Suzuki


  • Pushball!
  • Students were invited to compete in a quiz bowl/trivia event versus a team of Brian Rosenberg, Adrienne Christiansen, Jane Rhodes, and Jayne Niemi. Bill Watkins hosted the event and acted as “Quizmaster.”


  • Introduction of the Founders Day Decathlon


  • Kilts and legs Project, a series of pictures featuring faculty members in Kilts from the waist down, was used as promotional material


  • Founders Day 2019 marked the college’s 145th birthday


  • Founders Day 2020 will continue tradition with a variety of events to celebrate the college’s 146th birthday


“The history of Macalester is written with the story of men and women who sacrificed… Great commitment, and great acknowledgement of the need for occasional suffering in order to bring great ideas into reality. We are the beneficiaries of those who have preceded us.”
– Former Macalester President
John B. Davis, Jr. in 1975