Title

Exhibit - The Rock

Out of all the iconic monuments at MSU, older than the Sparty Statue and Beaumont Tower, the Rock is the oldest with the most colorful history, in more ways than one.

The giant, hand painted billboard that hundreds of students gather around throughout the year was donated as the class gift from the Class of 1873.The 18,000-year-old pudding stone that was left behind from a glacier was pulled from the Delta, the triangular piece of land at the corner of Michigan and Grand River Avenues.This land was originally part of MSU and was first used for growing crops and pasturing stock.Over time, the Botany Department would test different types of grass in the Delta and it later became housing for the professors.The Rock was found buried in that piece of land, with its flat surface near the top of the soil. The giant stone was dug away by the students during the summer recess and hauled to its original home in the “Sacred Space”, near where Beaumont Tower would later be built, by a team of oxen.The stone, as it was originally called, was dedicated on May 30, 1873.

In a grove of trees, the Rock found its home for the next 112 years The class gift had the words “Class ‘73” chiseled into the front of the stone, but the man that chiseled the word “class” spelled it incorrectly with only one “s”. When he added the second “s”, he cut out a little piece of stone at the left of the word to help make the wording appear symmetrical. Dr. Kedzie remarked on the situation by stating, “Curses, not loud but deep, on the head of the man who, if not sickly, had bad spells.”

For the next sixty to seventy years, the Rock remained as it was, untouched, but during the 1940s and 1950s, the Rock would be known as the “Engagement Rock”. If a guy wanted to propose, he would take his gal to the Rock and pop the question. At some point in the Rock’s early history, a bench was added in front of the Rock, and it was said that only engaged or married couples could sit on the bench.

As times changed during the 1960s and 1970s, the Rock became a political platform and billboard for various groups. The obscenities that were written on the Rock were offensive to some alumni, who voiced their concern to the University. To fix the situation, on September 23, 1977, workers brought in a crane to lift the Rock and set it in front of the Department of Public Safety building, in the hopes it would be safe from graffiti attempts. About 35 people crowded around the workers and voiced their displeasure over the relocation of the Rock. ASMSU President Kent Barry showed up on location and said nothing was spoken about relocating the Rock. Due to the outcry, the Rock was moved back to its original location near Beaumont Tower the same day. The University wanted to relocate the Rock due to both the complaints they received from the obscenities and the annual cost the University spent on sandblasting the Rock to remove the graffiti, which cost about $400 to $600 each time. To remove the Rock and put it back in its original location cost the University $500.

The Rock was moved from its original location near Beaumont Tower to its current location on Farm Lane next to the Auditorium in September of 1985. It was moved due to the fact that when people were painting the Rock, they were also painting and damaging the surrounding trees, bushes, and sidewalks. By moving the Rock to the location at Farm Lane, it would be settled in a clearing where it was hoped other items would be free from damage.

Today, the Rock is painted anew almost every day by students and student organizations, whether to promote an event or an organization, to proclaim one’s love, or to memorialize someone. There has never been a signup sheet for people to paint the Rock. The unwritten rule about painting the Rock is that whoever is there first at night to paint it can do so, but it’s best to stay with the Rock until first light. If the painters decide not to stay and guard the Rock, any other group can come and repaint it.

At the original dedication of the Rock, the speaker remarked upon how it would “perpetually call attention to you”, referring to the Class of 1873. That statement couldn’t be any truer, since the Rock is repainted almost every day, and people constantly glance to see the message painted. Even though most people probably don’t think about where the Rock came from, it is a beloved monument that has spanned generations of students. While the Rock might not be as prestigious or grand as the Sparty Statue or Beaumont Tower, it is an evolving monument that fits the needs, time, and spirit of the students at MSU.

Sources Cited:
“ASMSU Favors Rock Move,” from The State News, 3 July 1985, microfilm edition, Reel June 19, 1985 to August 23, 1985, UA 6224.  Microfilm at the Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections.

Beal, W.J. (1915). History of the Michigan agricultural college and biographical sketches of trustees and professors. East Lansing: Agricultural College.

Lautner, Harold. (1977). From an oak opening: A record of the development of the campus park of Michigan State University, 1855-1969. Volume I, 1855-1945. East Lansing, Mich.

Michigan State University. General Photos. Alumni. Class Reunion. Class of 1873. Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Michigan State University. General Photos. Class Stones. Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Michigan State University. Information Files. Class Gifts. Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Mitcham, B. (1985, September 26). Rock of ages. The MSU News-Bulletin, pp. 3. Serial 45. Michigan State Universty Archives & Historical Collections.

“Pet Rock’ Rolls, Students Riled,” from The State News, 29 September 1977, microfilm edition, Reel July 1, 1977 to December 9, 1977, UA 6224. Microfilm at the Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections.

Stone of 1873 Dedication Remarks, n.d., Box 2413, Folder 7, Madison Kuhn Collection, UA 17.107, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.

Towar, James. (1933). History of the city of East Lansing. East Lansing, Mich.


Exhibit written by Jennie Russell, October 2014

Related Objects

Class of 1873 Reunion in front of the Rock, May 30, 1907
Class of 1873 Reunion in front of the Rock, May 30, 1907
May 30, 1907
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Colored Picture of the Rock, circa 1928
Colored Picture of the Rock, circa 1928
Date: 1920-1929
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Couple sitting in front of the Rock, circa 1947
Couple sitting in front of the Rock, circa 1947
Date: 1940-1949
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Engagement Rock, April 21, 1958
Engagement Rock, April 21, 1958
April 21, 1958
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Engagement Rock, circa 1950
Engagement Rock, circa 1950
Date: 1950-1959
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Graffiti on The Rock, circa 1979
Graffiti on The Rock, circa 1979
Date: 1970-1979
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Group of students sitting in front of the Rock, ca. 1940s
Group of students sitting in front of the Rock, ca. 1940s
Date: 1940-1949
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Men Posing in Front of the Rock, date unknown
Men Posing in Front of the Rock, date unknown
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Onn Mann Liang with members of Cosmopolitan Club, 1925
Onn Mann Liang with members of Cosmopolitan Club, 1925
1925
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Protest at the Rock, October 26, 1975
Protest at the Rock, October 26, 1975
October 26, 1975
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Protest at the Rock, circa 1970
Protest at the Rock, circa 1970
Date: 1970-1979
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Relocating the Rock, September 17, 1985
Relocating the Rock, September 17, 1985
September 17, 1985
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Relocating the Rock, September 17, 1985
Relocating the Rock, September 17, 1985
September 17, 1985
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Side View of the Rock and Buildings in the Background, undated
Side View of the Rock and Buildings in the Background, undated
Date: 1890-1899
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Sidewalk being cleaned next to the Rock, October 16, 1984
Sidewalk being cleaned next to the Rock, October 16, 1984
October 16, 1984
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Silhouette of couple in front of the Rock, ca. 1955
Silhouette of couple in front of the Rock, ca. 1955
1955
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Students Hiding behind Umbrella in front of the Rock, circa 1962
Students Hiding behind Umbrella in front of the Rock, circa 1962
Date: 1960-1969
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Students Protesting at the Rock, November 10, 1978
Students Protesting at the Rock, November 10, 1978
November 10, 1978
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Students and the Rock, circa 1951
Students and the Rock, circa 1951
Date: 1950-1959
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Students pose for a picture by the Rock, circa 1875
Students pose for a picture by the Rock, circa 1875
1875
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
The Rock and Big Ten, circa 1978
The Rock and Big Ten, circa 1978
1978
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
The Rock and Morrill Hall, ca. 1932
The Rock and Morrill Hall, ca. 1932
Date: 1930-1939
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
The Rock and Morrill Hall, ca. 1955
The Rock and Morrill Hall, ca. 1955
1955
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
The Rock being Moved, September 17, 1985
The Rock being Moved, September 17, 1985
September 17, 1985
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
The Rock, 1900
The Rock, 1900
1900
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
The Rock, circa 1958
The Rock, circa 1958
Date: 1950-1959
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
The Rock, date unknown
The Rock, date unknown
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
The Rock, date unknown
The Rock, date unknown
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Three Women and the Rock, circa 1947
Three Women and the Rock, circa 1947
Date: 1940-1949
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Wide Shot of the Rock and West Circle, ca. 1967
Wide Shot of the Rock and West Circle, ca. 1967
Date: 1960-1969
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections