The Flame to the Second Century was created in honor of this institution’s 100th birthday and was dedicated at the Centennial Convocation, Sept 2, 1967. As a symbol of transition from one century to the next, the flame was first lit by the College presidents who ended the first and began the second 100 years, along with the Board of Regents President whose term on the Board bridged the two centuries. They were President Emeritus Walter H Ryle (retired 1967), President F Clark Elkins (installed 1967), and Regents President James R Reinhard (Board member 1965-72).
Originally, the flame burned from a ceramic “lamp of knowledge” created by art instructor Richard Miller. It sat atop a ten-foot concrete pillar near the flagpole at the north entrance to the Quad. In the Spring of 1981, it was moved to the south end of the Quad and installed at ground level in a brick-paved courtyard at the entrance to Kirk Memorial. The statue of Joseph Baldwin, the University’s founder, overlooks the courtyard and flame from a few yards away.
The flame is lit for special occasions and ceremonies such as commencement, homecoming and the opening of school each fall, and is an integral part of other commemorative programs and memorial observances. It burns, for example, during the memorial services held for students who lose their lives while a part of our campus community – and it was lit 9/11. The fact that it does not burn all the time makes it more special when it does – when the flame is alight, something important is happening.