‘Some things never change’

Queen’s reputation for school spirit is demonstrated through alumni donations and merchandise sales

Over 10,000 students attended this Saturday’s football game at Richardson Stadium.
Over 10,000 students attended this Saturday’s football game at Richardson Stadium.
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Last Friday and Saturday, Jack Neary stood on the corner of William and Aberdeen Streets distributing two cars full of “Keep Calm and Stay Golden” t-shirts to students on campus in anticipation for the football game.

The distribution, which started at 3 p.m. on Friday saw over 80 people in line initially. Fifteen minutes later, organizers had started another setup point on Earl and Aberdeen Streets because of high demand.

The distribution, called Project Aberdeen, was created with the purpose of promoting Neary’s textbook rental company.

Along the stands and the streets, students donned the t-shirts— just one example of the popularity of Queen’s-related merchandise during spirited events.

The large response generated by the t-shirt distribution was unanticipated, Neary said.

“I opened my trunk up and all of a sudden there was a crowd of people,” Neary, Comm ’11, said. “Before we knew it, we had a long line down Aberdeen.”

Neary is also the creator behind the Wuck Festern t-shirts, a project he started when he was in his second year. Unlike Project Aberdeen, shirts from Wuck Festern are sold and not distributed for free.

Neary first began selling the Wuck Festern t-shirts at the University of Toronto, and quickly moved the project to seven other schools in Ontario, including Queen’s, as well as others in B.C. and Quebec.

“It’s interesting. We had a hard time getting shirts out [in Toronto]. At Queen’s, the demand was way higher than the amount of shirts we had.”

Neary is no longer heading up the Wuck Festern shirt sales on campus, but when he was, approximately 2,000 shirts were being sold each year. He attributes these high numbers to the strong rivalry between Queen’s and Western.

This rivalry was on display at Saturday’s game, where Richardson Stadium saw 10,077 students, alumni and community members in the stands —a higher number than the Frosh Week game versus York, which had 8,191 attendees.

Established on-campus retailers also noted a spike in sales of Queen’s clothing before spirited events like the football game versus Western.

Oil Thigh Designs Head Manager Mark Cuyegkeng has seen at least a 200 per cent increase in t-shirt sales since classes started last week.

Instead of the store selling an average of five shirts a day, the business, located in the JDUC, has been selling up to 15 daily, Cuyegkeng, Comm ’13 said, partially attributing the increase in sales to this weekend’s football game and homecoming festivities.

“I don’t know anyone that’s been to a football game and hated it — you’re constantly surrounded by everyone that has the same pride that you do. It’s the same reason why people come back for Homecoming weekend, they want to be part of that school spirit again,” he said.

This school pride is instilled in Queen’s students during Orientation Week, he said.

According to AMS Campus Activities Commissioner Claire Casher, hundreds of students apply to be orientation leaders every year.

“Overall we have really high interest and we appreciate that,” she said, although she was unable to give a specific number of applications received. But school spirit can persist beyond the short time students are on campus. In any given year, nine per cent of Queen’s 137,139 alumni make a donation to the University. The national average, on the other hand, is only 6 per cent, according to Vice Principal of Advancement,Tom Harris.

American universities with large endowments, including the University of Michigan and Northwestern University receive only about one per cent more than Queen’s does in alumni donations.

“At Queen’s, the vast majority of philanthropy does in fact come from alumni. At other universities it may be skewed towards corporations,” Harris said.

Students at Queen’s are generally more engaged, he said, due to the residential nature of the University.

But school spirit is more than just finance-based.

“Some individuals are not enamoured by the more flamboyant aspects of Queen’s spirit,” he said. “It’s not just engineers slamming their jackets … Queen’s spirit is well more than that. It’s about initiative, a desire to be a part of something larger than themselves.”

Many of the school’s largest donors, he said, have a stake in the University or were students themselves.

“The connection is not transactional. It’s about a relationship.” Other large donors were also involved when they were students. Robert Beamish, Sci ’60, which Beamish-Munro Hall was named after, was the president of the Engineering Society during his time at the school.

School spirit dating back many decades also emerges in the stands during each home game.

“Some things never change,” said Peter Harrison when he spotted Wally Mellor in the stands at Richardson Stadium before this Saturday’s football game.

Both men are former Gaels quarterbacks — Mellor from the 1950s and Harrison from the 1980s.

Mellor comes to nearly every football game each season and sits in the same spot — in the back row, right under the press box. He’ll often sit there with a group of his former teammates. On Saturday, the stands were full of football alumni, many of whom regularly attend Gaels home games. Mellor himself was greeted by a number of them prior to the game.

One former Gael, Gord McLellan, played for the Gaels during the 1971-72 season and attends every home game of the season.

While many of these alumni watch on, there are some noticeable differences in the crowd.

“The spirit is good now, but you should have seen it in the 50s and the 60s,” Mellor said.

Recently though, the spirit seems unfading, at least in Jamie Lewin’s eyes. Lewin, who played defensive back for the Gaels when they won their 1992 Vanier Cup, was back in town this weekend to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the team’s big win.

“It’s an incredible testament to the culture of the school that it’s been able to maintain such incredible spirit within the student body,” he said

Lewin flew out from his home in Dallas for the weekend and brought his young daughter to see the game.

Matthew Morrison, Comm ’15, counts himself as a big football fan and usually attends Gaels home games. But not all fans are like him, he said.

Morrison has noticed that larger numbers of students come to the Homecoming and Frosh Week games.

Statistics from Queen’s Athletics show that he’s right. Between 2009-11, the highest attendance during the regular season has been for these two games.

Other games see fewer crowds, Morrison said.

“I don’t think there’s necessarily 10,000 people at Queen’s who are passionate about football,” he said. “I think it’s about supporting Queen’s versus another school.”

—With files from Katherine Fernandez-Blance

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