Pinwheel Day 2011!

Pinwheel Day 2011!

There are few things more beautiful than a perfect spring day on the Haverford campus, except maybe a perfect spring day on the Haverford campus on Pinwheel Day.

Pinwheel Day, which is meant to celebrate and commemorate the beginning of spring and warm weather, is a beloved, but mysterious, tradition. According to Ford mythology, on the first seasonable day of spring, the campus awakens to find Founders Green carpeted with multi-colored, spinning pinwheels, which appeared overnight thanks to the secretive effort of (an) anonymous do-gooder(s). (We like to think it’s the work of a particularly crafty black squirrel. But that’s just us.)

A little bit of sleuthing leads us to tidbits like this one: Pinwheel Day was started by a student in 1998. But part of the impromptu event’s charm is its secrecy, so we decided not to dig too much deeper. So thank you to whomever is responsible for making Founders Green look like a whimsical fairy tale this morning. We wouldn’t reveal your identity/identities even if we knew it/them.


  1. From our Advancement Services Offices in Founders (3rd floor), we have a great view of the pinwheels; even on an overcast Monday they are whimsically spinning. From this vantage point, one can see that several designs have been outlined in the grass as well….

  2. Fabulous! Why did I ever graduate?!?

  3. My first visit to campus was Pinwheel Day 1999 and no joke, played a large part in why I ended up applying and going to Haverford. That and selling candy bars unattended.

  4. I love pinwheel day!!!! I miss it. Thank you, HC!

  5. I recall pinwheels appearing on Founders Green when I was a student there (91-95).

  6. maybe someone is making a distinction between pinwheels and plastic spinning flowers, but I definitely remember someone putting a lot of them on the green in 92 or 93…..

  7. Pinwheel day is one of my favorite days on campus! So beautiful and brings so many people outside!

  8. What a nice piece of high-grade foolishness! There were no pinwheels there in the 1950s when I was a student there, but I certainly approve of this, almost as much as having women matriculates. Both are great additions and improvements to the Haverford I knew.

    And one wonders if this, or something like this, might ever find its way to the Swarthmore campus. I recall that we regarded that institution as a place where “joy goes to die,” but then the same has been said of the University of Chicago as well.

    Still, there is something slightly effervescent in the Haverford spirit…..

  9. First I thought this was some alternative energy project run amok, then suspected the College website had been hacked, finally decided Pinwheel Day is the current manifestation of the loony and irrepressible spirits that seize the campus each Spring. Especially after a protracted and ugly Winter. Does anybody steal BMC’s maypoles, anymore?

  10. Reminds me of the 1000 pink flamingos at UW-Madison, planted by the inimitable Pail and Shovel Party in 1979:

    The Pail and Shovel Party also made good on their campaign promise to bring the Statue of Liberty to Madison:

    Several years ago the H’ford listserv had a spirited discussion of Haverford pranks, including the diversion of Lancaster Ave. traffic through campus in the ’60s. (Or was it having College Ave. and Lancaster Ave. *both* diverted to meet in the middle? Memory fails me…)

  11. Pinwheel Day? This never happened back in my day! It looks beautiful! Too bad I never got to experience it. Then again, we went tunneling. It was pretty amusing whispering at people in the library from behind the metal screens on the wall. And breaking into Founder’s Hall and ringing the bell in the middle of the night. And running for our lives before security got there… Ah, Haverford… Hope those black squirrels keep up those antics for a long time.

  12. I graduated in 1978, and had never heard of Pinwheel Day before getting an email from Haverford today. But somehow I got 100% on the Pinwheel Quiz, through a small amount of deduction and a large amount of educated guessing. Maybe I absorbed advance knowledge of Pinwheel Day while I was a student, more knowledge than I retained of things like eigenvalues in “real” classes.

  13. I’ve always wondered about the secrets behind Pinwheel Day. I’ve worked here for 12 years now, and each year, I wonder how the tradition gets passed from one class to the next. What is the secret meteorological combination that is required; who puts the pinwheels out; is there a specific number of pinwheels; etc., etc., etc.

    Thanks, for finally shedding a little bit of light on the subject.

    Now, can anyone fill me in on the tradition of hitting tennis balls (but using a baseball bat) in front of Leeds? That seems to be a tradition that’s passed from class to class, as well.

  14. What a delightful idea! When we were students in the early 1950s (yes, that long ago, when there was compulsory Fifth Day Meeting and compulsory Third Day Collection, and meals were served by waiters in Founders Hall), the college year ran until early June. Graduation was around June 6. Since the Haverford Campus is an Arboretum, we got to see the campus in all its magnificent beauty. Unfortunately, graduation is now 3-4 weeks earlier than in our time, and some students leave the campus as early at May 10 (or earlier) when exams are finished, so they don’t get to see the exquisite beauty of the Nature Trail, the trees, bushes, and gardens. Maybe the pin wheels substitute for what many students miss in the natural beauty of Haverford’s campus because graduation and exams come so early. But, the pinwheels sure beat the smell of the fallen ginkgo fruit from the ginkgo trees that use to stand in front of Founders Hall.

    Bill Kaye ’54

  15. Never heard of it. There were no pinwheels between ’56 and ’60. Whimsy is always fun!

  16. What a fantastic and joyful way to start the day! Many thanks to Emily for sharing the fun.

  17. I can verify that the first (but at that time unofficial) “Pinwheel Day” took place in 1993 on Founders Green. The conspirators included myself and several other students, as well as a member of the maintenance crew and several others who politely averted their eyes as we dotted the green with pinwheels under cover of night. However, I cannot tell you who I am…or I might have to confront you.

    It makes me very happy to see our small efforts became a Haverford tradition!

  18. For four years in the 1960’s, we had an early form of Pinwheel Day. It was on those very special occasions when Little Johnny Aird would parade around campus wearing a beanie with pinwheel that he’d won at the Lancaster County Fair for having the prize gerbil, which he named, Dir. Bill, for reasons that wil be obvious to those Fords of that era. Good to know that progress has been made!

  19. I was on BrynMawr’s campus earlier today and found a Pinwheel on the floor. Someone must have grabbed it from Founders and transported it to BMC– I was able to bring it home with me!

  20. Pinwheel day was after my time, but it could have been. A perfect day for it!

  21. Lovely and uplifting event! Happy to learn that something so new has developed into a Haverford tradition.

  22. Pinwheel day to me meant that very soon enough I will no longer be in need of a coat and about three layers of clothes. It made me so happy every time! Hope this tradition never ends!

  23. I think this started sometime in the mid 1990s. There was an anonymous group that use to pull pranks such as dropping a hundred ping pong balls over the heads of Honor Council during plenary (when it was still held in Roberts) and planting pinwheels on the Green too. I believe the ring leader may have been a certain tall guy who liked to wear overalls who graduated in 1993… but that’s just my speculation.

  24. I think NOT knowing where, when or how it started is part of the charm…sometimes a little mystery in life makes it more fun, don’t you think? It’s a great way to start a day!


  26. If I were there, I would look forward to this every year! It does remind me of the pink flamingos, and also of my childhood when we would put these in the garden to try to scare the birds (who were too smart for us!).

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