For the Record: Senior Honor Awards

Text by Jeanne Leong

The senior class leadership awards are among the oldest traditions at Penn.
The Spoon, Bowl, Cane, and Spade awards honor men who are elected by their fellow students to recognize their outstanding service to the University community.

Penn senior class
Photo by University Archives and Records Center

The senior class leadership awards are among the oldest traditions at Penn.

Penn senior class
Photo by University Archives and Records Center

The Spoon, Bowl, Cane, and Spade awards honor men who are elected by their fellow students to recognize their outstanding service to the University community.

The Spoon, the oldest award, originated in the mid-19th century and is presented to the most popular member of the senior class.

The Bowl Award is given to the second-most-popular senior. The award evolved from the “Bowl Fights,” a class rivalry between the freshman and sophomore classes. The Class of 1884 is believed to be the first to present the Bowl as a senior award when a senior saved the wooden bowl from the fight between freshmen and sophomores.

The Cane Award commemorates the Cane Fights. In the 1880s, the cane was a hallmark of every young gentleman. Sophomores, infuriated that lowly freshmen carried canes, seized the underclassmen’s canes and broke them in half. The Cane Fights developed into a contest in which both classes rushed to grab it in the middle of a field. The class with the most hands on the cane was declared the winner. The Cane Award is presented to the third-most-popular senior.

The Spade Award is presented to the fourth-most-popular senior. Originally, the student who used the spade to plant the class ivy on Ivy Day was honored with the spade as an expression of his classmate’s esteem.

Although women are not eligible for the Spoon, Bowl, Cane, and Spade Awards, they have their own senior honors.

The Althea K. Hottel Award, established in 1959, honors “intellectual competence, commitment to ideals and principles, and loyalty to the University of Pennsylvania.”

Created in 1969, the Gaylord P. Harnwell Award, named for the former Penn president, recognizes a senior female student for her service to the University.

The David R. Goddard Award honors a student for her exemplary service to the University community. Goddard served as the University’s provost from 1961 to 1970.

The R. Jean Brownlee Award is named for the former Dean of the College for Women, who served from 1958 to 1975. The award is symbolic of fourth honors among the senior women.

All of the awards are presented on Hey Day, the last day of classes of the academic year. The honorees are also recognized during Commencement in May.

For more information about this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives online.

Originally published on .