Issue: October 14, 1998 - Vol. 29 No. 2
Ask Aunt Sophie
Dear Aunt Sophie,
Regarding the 'coffin door' matter—Dr. Ron Sutcliffe, dean of the School of Management, has more information. Your readers may be interested in what he has to say.
FYI in HMB
Thank you so much for sending Dr. Sutcliffe's comments about the coffin door. We'll get to the bottom of this mystery yet!
Dr. Sutcliffe says: 'One of the convocation speakers warned the freshmen against walking through the coffin door because, according to Gallaudet legend, they would never graduate. This brought back memories of my freshman hazing days when we were given 10 commandments. These included study hours, sleeping times, respect for upperclassmen, etc.
Some of the commandments were patronizing, such as forbidding us to go through the coffin door. The reason for this, we were told, was that back when E.M. Gallaudet was president, U.S. President Garfield visited campus. Just as his horse-drawn carriage rolled onto Kendall Green, a group of wild freshmen were jostling one another at what was then a rectangular door in Chapel Hall. They wanted to get a glimpse of President Garfield. However, there was so much forceful pushing and shoving going on that the doorway changed into the shape it's in today—a coffin.
President E.M. Gallaudet was so embarrassed by the immature behavior the students displayed in front of the President of the United States, that they were expelled without any due process or second chance. And that's why they did not graduate.'