Gautier after Bingham, Stump Speaking (detail), c. 1856, engraving.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Student Organizations - Life Outside the Classroom at Mizzou


As you may have heard, Mizzou is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. It made me think about all the different aspects of being a student and what daily life might have been like for those first students so long ago. What did they do outside of attending class? In which social events did they participate? Were they as busy as the undergraduates of today who work and participate in extracurricular activities?

One thing that we, the students of the twenty-first century, have in common with our nineteenth-century forebears is being a member of a club or team. Student involvement is common among Mizzou students of all levels, from first year undergrads to PhD students. According to the Organization Resource Group (ORG), the campus office that assists student organizations with their administrative needs, there are over 750 recognized student organizations at MU.

Our latest exhibition in the Traditions Lounge, Student Organizations: Life Outside the Classroom, highlights the long history of student organizations on our campus. From the Athenaeans, a literary society formed in 1841, to the Mizzou Quidditch team members, who play a sport developed from the Harry Potter novels, Mizzou students participate in an eclectic array of organizations that engage their talents, help them develop new interests, and add a little fun to college life. Below are just a few of those organizations that inhabited the halls of Mizzou.

Savitar 1904

Clubs at MU have ranged from serious to silly. The early 1900s, for example, saw the founding of such clubs as the Pirate Crew and the Zoo Club, that latter of which nick-named their members after wild animals and claimed Rudyard Kipling as an honorary member.



Founded in 1912, The Pirate Crew, a social club, lived by the purpose “To capture the priceless treasures—good fellowship, fidelity and fraternal unity” (Savitar 1918).

Music-making occupies the time of many Mizzou students, whether for fun or as an academic pursuit. Many MU musicians have become recognized for their extraordinary talents which were fostered during their college years in musical ensembles like the Men’s Glee Club and the Singsations.



The Savitar of 1896 features the University Glee, Banjo, and Mandolin Club, lauding it “unique and variegated.” In the 1900s, the club split into a more traditional Glee Club and a separate Mandolin Club (Savitar 1896).


In the 1970s and 1980s, the Singsations, a jazz ensemble, performed around the state and even traveled to Eastern Europe before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Notably, in the 1980s, the group boasted a young Sheryl Crow among its ranks. Shown above, Sinsgsations members are costumed and ready to perform (Savitar 1974).

Some students with the same major gather together, creating clubs that celebrate and support their as their academic program.



The Freshman Medical Society class of 1910 describes their meetings as thus: “Everybody gets in on the wind-up, which consists of something good to eat and plenty of it, something good to drink (not the headache kind), toasts, boasts, rips, roasts, ghosts, discussion, percussion, and the merry ha ha” (Savitar 1907).


MU’s annual Farmers’ Week provided opportunities for members of the Agriculture Club to compete in various judging contests and to share their interests with other university students. Pictured above, Farmers’ Week in 1919 hosted the Missouri Corn Growers’ Association’s corn exhibit held in Jesse Hall. Despite the heavy toll taken by the recent war and influenza outbreak, this event attracted a record-breaking number of participants (Savitar 1919).


The Forestry Society, founded in 1912, limited its membership to only those students enrolled in the Department of Forestry. The above photo features four students embarking on their first Forestry class (Savitar 1912).

Sports bring together many MU students in pursuit of physical fitness and friendship. 



The MO-maids, Mizzou’s synchronized swimming team, was established on campus in 1926 and is featured in the yearbook through 1980. The group was originally dubbed the Missouri Mermaids, but became the MO-maids in the mid-1950s. The 1968 yearbook extols the group as “the water ballerinas of the University,” and describes their annual shows as involving elaborate costuming, arranged songs, strobe lights, and even slide projectors (Savitar 1968).



Formed in 2001, the Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Team has earned international recognition. Current head coach, Ron Lykins, also coaches the US men’s national team and Carter Arey, MU team captain, was named the Player of the Year by the National Wheelchair Basketball Association Intercollegiate Division for 2013-2014 season (Photo Courtesy of MIZZOU magazine and MIZZOU Alumni Association).


The Aero-Tigers Club allowed any student or faculty member interested in flying an opportunity to learn with both an instructor and the equipment needed to earn their pilot’s license. The members were co-owners of the planes and their dues paid for gas and insurance. The Aero-Tigers existed from the mid-1950s to 1970 (Photo courtesy of University Archives and Savitar 1957)

Students also mobilize to cheer on our MU Tigers sports teams, creating a spirit of unity and support for our student athletes.



According to the 1931 Savitar yearbook, every MU freshman enrolled in the 1920s and 30s automatically became a member of the Thundering Thousand booster club. Before every home football game “this group assemble[d] at the Columns and marche[d] to the Stadium in lock step.” Shown here, beloved professor Jesse Wrench leads the Thundering Thousand to Rollins Field before the 1922 Homecoming game (Savitar 1923).

The exhibition also includes student clubs that arise around a common cause or social group. Social justice clubs like the Legion of Black Collegians, the Femme Forum, HALO, and the Triangle Coalition allow African-American, female, Latino, and LGBTQ students, respectively, an avenue for advocating for diversity on campus. Clubs for international students offer fellowship for those students living outside of their home cultures. Other clubs form to provide programming for university students, such as the Student Union Programming Board and the Tiger Claws.




I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at just a few of the groups in which Mizzou students have participated in the last 175 years! Visit the Traditions Lounge on the second floor of the MU Student Center to see all the clubs highlighted in the exhibition. Please feel free to share your own memories of participating in organizations and clubs during your time at MU in the comments section below! 

Blog authored by Sarah S. Jones, PhD Student, Art History and Archaeology