My Favorite UAF History Stories Part 2


So as you might assume the name implies, this is a continuation of a previous blog post about my favorite UAF history stories. To check that blog post out, click here


One of UAF's oldest mysteries involves estranged lovers, the Eielson Building, and a small, blue and yellow plane. I find great irony in knowing that the Eielson Building is named after the notorious pilot Ben Eielson (Eielson Air Force Base is also named in his honor). It was back in July of 1944; there were a group of medical personnel playing volleyball where the Eielson parking lot now stands. A small plane, flown by a soldier/student pilot who to this day is unnamed, crashed into what was at the time the northwest corner of the Eielson Building.

According to the Fairbanks Daily News Miner's article, the pilot flew out of Anchorage on what was supposed to be a routine solo flight, but flew to Fairbanks instead. It was later mentioned that the pilot's ex-girlfriend — who broke up with him earlier that summer — worked in the Eielson Building at the time. It still isn't clear whether it was a simple accident of poor flying or a violent and destructive gesture. Ironic that the only UAF building that had a plane crash into it is also named after a pilot.



Another great mystery that very much lives on to this day is the enigmatic traditions stone! To this day we boast Nanook Traditions and have annual events such as Starvation Gulch, Winter Carnival, and Spring Fest. But where did the title of "Tradition" really begin? Well, during the 50's when Ernest Patty was president, he felt it necessary to "clean up" the face of the university and prove that we weren't just a party college up in the wilderness of the last frontier. Partly due to recent bar brawls, he prohibited alcohol on campus and instituted weekly formal dinners to practice exercising good etiquette. Not much complaint about the dinners was heard over the outrage caused by the prohibition. 

202 students quickly signed a petition protesting the alcohol ban. Hundreds of students later held a facetious funeral for the "death of tradition" at which they had a 400 lb concrete headstone with the words "Here lies tradition 1957" on a bronze plaque. They sang a funeral dirge to the tune of Rock of Ages and used empty beer bottles as candle holders. The stone was ordered to be destroyed, but was instead stolen. I've heard rumors that it's spent a year at the bottom of the Chena (how anyone recovered the massive block is anyone's guess), made it's way to Seattle and back (why? I don't know), and for a while made regular appearances at our 3 annual traditions. The stone, however, hasn't been seen since 2014 and passionate alumni and employees are begging for clues as to its whereabouts. Here's a link to the Sun Star's coverage of a reenactment of the funeral done in 2013

UAF Photos taken from the UA Journey website and the UAF100 Timeline page. Again, thank you Terrence Cole for compiling such an interesting story-rich book, The Cornerstone on College Hill!

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