History of the St. Pat’s Board
In the spring of 1908 the University of Missouri Columbia extended an invitation to the School of Mines to send a delegate to witness their ceremonies. As a result, a mass meeting was held in front of the post office, where all matters of importance were settled at the time, and J.H.Bowles was elected to be the delegate to the ceremonies in Columbia
The Miners, however, were not content to let the situation remain at that. A committee consisting of G.A.Easley (’09), Clay Gregory (’10), and D.L. Forester (’11), was appointed by the student body to arrange a celebration in Rolla. However, since March 17th was a school day, the committee had to meet and make its arrangements in secret.
On the 16th the committee had their assistants spend nearly all night decorating the huge entrance to Norwood Hall while taking care of the night watchman. Other deputies were busy posting the town with bills declaring a holiday for the following day and requested all students to meet at the depot at 8:00 the next morning.
Considerable difficultly was encountered, as many of the students were skeptical, and the faculty was opposed to the idea. Nevertheless, March 17, 1908, was declared a holiday by popular vote of the student body, and on the morning of the 17th, St. Pat (George Menefee) arrived at the Grand Central Station and was met by the crowd armed with shillelaghs and wearing green sashes. A celebration began,
It is said that, as the party progressed, faculty dismayed by the absence of their students gathered in the office of School Director Dr. Lewis E. Young and demanded action. Dr. Young’s lovely secretary, Alice Long, who was rumored to be sweet on George Menefee, overheard and took her lunch hour early, hastening to the station where she warned the fledgling St. Pat of the faculty’s ire.
Not to be deterred, Menefee mounted his chariot, and led the students in a hastily arranged parade to the arched entrance of Norwood Hall where the faculty stood silently, arms crossed and feet tapping. Upon seeing what awaited them, the crowd flailed. Ever the charmer, George dismounted at the foot of the steps and, with his shillelagh raised as a scepter, he made his way through the faculty to the top step where, in the name of Saint Patrick, he bid Dr. Young to kneel.
The tension was high, but Dr. Young, new to the job and popular with students as well as faculty, saw a chance for a happy solution and knelt good-naturedly; whereupon St Patrick, in a voice loud and clear, spoke the historic words: “Dr. Young, I dub you the first Honorary Knight of Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Engineers.”
The students cheered; the faculty, all engineers themselves, laughed and applauded. Lewis Young rose a Knight and the new holiday tradition was born. Buoyed by the success of his ploy, Menefee went on to lecture the seniors, interpret the marks on a nearby boulder (the “Blarney Stone,”) and ended by surveying a quadrangle with his transit–a forked stick with a beer bottle resting on it. George went on to dub the class of 1908 the “Knights of the Order of St. Patrick.”
Drinking and partying, along with a concert, followed the knighting ceremony. Everyone ended the day with a general resolve to continue the celebration in future years. March 17th was scheduled as a regular school holiday the following year. Also, at the senior meeting on March 7th of the same year, it was decided that the junior class would be put in charge of putting on future St. Pat’s celebrations.
The St. Pat’s Board was officially created on December 11, 1930 by a three to one majority vote of the student body. Prior to this time, the celebration was still organized by the junior class. Unfortunately, by 1929 the event had grown to such proportions that politics and power struggles within the junior class threatened to destroy it.
Even with the limited time that the first board had to organize the celebration as well as themselves, they still managed to successfully pull it off through lots of hard work and determination. They even managed to make a ten-dollar profit.
Although major festivities were cancelled during the last two years of WWII, 2013 will mark the 105th year of the Saint Patrick’s celebration at MS&T. While the Saint Pat’s Board has gone through many changes in its first century, the tradition begun by George Menefee and his colleagues remains: Rolla students are proud of their entrepreneurship, their “scrappy” ability to innovate, their slight mischievousness, and especially their love of a good time–all qualities personified by the hard-working members of St. Pat’s.
During recent decades, the Saint Pats organization has earned the major part of its expenses by selling green sweatshirts decorated with artistic logos depicting aspects of the tradition. These shirts are particularly popular with college students and have been seen as far away as Paris, Istanbul, and even in China.
Each year, the people of Missouri and their friends are invited to Rolla in mid-March to join the students, faculty, and staff of one of the nation’s top technological research universities to pay homage to the patron saint of engineers and to join in the celebration that has become known as The Best Ever.