Skip top navigation Skip to main content

"Class banners tell a marvelous story of the women who were here and the men and women who continue to move us forward."

When Kate O'Connor, vice president for enrollment management, arrived on campus in 1987, she gathered a group of alumnae to educate her on Lasell's traditions - in particular, River Day, class banners, and Torchlight.

"We had a really active group of young women on campus in the late '80s, but a lot of the traditions had been pushed aside or weren't really understood," she says.

Per Donald Winslow's research, class banners began with the first graduating class in 1854. They were "usually shields in red, white, and blue, with class mottos."

Class Banners from Lasell University

The banners, says Kate Kennedy '20, "always connect us with the students who came before us."

One of O'Connor's favorite aspects of the banners is their ability to tell not just the story of who attended Lasell at the time, but of what was happening in the world.

"It gives you a peek into what life was like on campus 10, 20, or even 50 years ago," adds Kennedy.

Canoeing became popular at Lasell as early as 1882, when the Juniata Boat Club was formed by students for rowing on the Charles River, according to Lasell:  A History of the First Junior College for Women by Donald J. Winslow. From there, it sprouted into a competitive tradition between houses.

"We practiced all the time," says Nancy Donahue '49.  "It was loads of fun. Everyone was involved, cheering or rowing."  

River Day at LasellRiver Day at Lasell

The tradition has evolved to include staff and faculty in the races, and now takes place in the fall during Friends, Family, and Alumni Weekend. What has remained the same is the competitive spirit and the use of the very same boats that started it all. 

"The fact that we still bring out canoes made in the 1880s onto the Charles each year is really something," says O'Connor. "The fact that no one can steer is another story."

When it comes to the Torchlight Parade, "the concept that we are lighting the way for  the future, and that each Lasell student passes along their knowledge, is a rich piece of tradition," says O'Connor. 

When Gail Winalski Burd '58 graduated, seniors wore their caps and gowns to the Torchlight Parade. 

"It meant a lot to have that kind of tradition,  and to know that it carries on today," she says.

River Day at LasellRiver Day at LasellKelsey Jones '20 is eager to walk down the same path on Woodland Road when she graduates this spring.

"Torchlight is such a huge part of our history, and I think it is insanely cool that we have carried on that legacy," she says. "The tradition ties together every single person who has gone to Lasell."

Images courtesy of The Winslow Archives at Lasell University. Learn more about our archival collection, ask questions, or schedule a visit at