The Daisy Chain, a tradition dating back to the late 1800s, celebrates the camaraderie and amiability fostered between the separate graduating classes on Vassar’s campus. Drawing together both sophomores and seniors, the procession was originally a symbol of sisterhood but has evolved in recent years into a commemoration of the student individuality, leadership, and collaboration. “Daisies,” as they are known, model the values of a quintessential member of the Vassar community, engaging in a spectrum of extracurriculars and devoting their time to volunteer work or class council-related services. A council of daisy coordinators selects a group of sophomores each year to assist in the graduating class’ activities, most notably the procession of the Daisy Chain at Commencement. Of this year’s members of the Daisy Chain, Julia Wieczorek ‘17 exemplifies the high level of campus involvement and class spirit that the tradition seeks to promote. Wieczorek is an International Studies and Chinese double major, an athlete for Vassar’s Women’s Swimming and Diving team, a participant in the Barefoot Monkeys and a finally Jewett house fellow intern. Despite her busy schedule, she has stretched her responsibilities to include the demands of being a daisy throughout the year. Wieczorek described some of her duties, writing in an emailed statement, “As a Daisy Chain member, I’ve worked on a few school and senior events throughout the year, such as Halloween, the “Dear White People” screening and some events that are coming up for Senior Week! Mainly our job is to assist in fundraising the senior class and help events run smoothly, making them enjoyable and memorable!” She continued, “The process is by application and interview by some senior Daisy Chain members. Students interested in applying for the Daisy Chain can attend some infor
mation sessions and then complete an online application.” Historically, as the sister class to the seniors, sophomores would adorn the chapel in Main Building with daisies picked from around campus on Class Day. This day leading up to Commencement and the seniors’ final day as undergraduate students, became a ritual of festivities that dates back to about 1889. The flowers were later chained together to rope off the seats in the chapel reserved for seniors during the Class Day exercises. Story holds that in 1894, senior Marshall Ruth Stickney, dismayed at the thought of leaving the beautiful daisy chain indoors as seniors departed the chapel and marched to their Class Tree, ordered the sophomore women to hoist in on their shoulders and carry it alongside the graduates. Ever since, select sophomores have been
chosen to uphold this practice, dressing in white and parading with the Daisy Chain on the day of Commencement, guiding seniors to and from the service. Class years change, but the daisy ceremony ties generations of Vassar students together. The flowers were originally six inches wide and one foot in length for each of the graduating seniors, packing roughly 100 pounds onto the shoulders of all of the six daisies. Local florist W. A. Saltford arranged the thousands of flowers gathered by the sophomores from both the campus fields and areas in Duchess County into the first commercially-made chain, which stretched out to 67 feet in length. Traditional measurements unrealistically ordained that the rope span a distance of over 600 feet. The current chain, however, is fixed at a length of about 150 feet and is toted by a group of 24 daisies.
Wieczorek explained that during the week of Commencement she will help check seniors into Bounce, accompany the seniors to Formal, check seniors onto the evening cruise and check students into the champagne reception. “Besides these, I will be walking at graduation, in tradition!” she exclaimed. “The most recent ceremony was Spring Convocation, and like tradition, the Daisies and Violets wore white dresses and led the lines of seniors into the chapel during procession, and following behind them in recession. We will carry the ‘chain’ at graduation as well,” Wieczorek wrote. Former daisy Kelsey Karpman ’16 remarked that the celebration has evolved significantly since it began. She described her responsibilities in the Daisy Chain. Karpman wrote in an emailed statement, “I was a daisy during the 2013-2014 school year. As a daisy, I was expected to assist the senior class council in running events throughout the year including Halloween, 50 nights and various senior week events.” She continued, “Most iconically, we also held the rope of daisies during commencement. There is a brief application process and interview with the daisy coordinators. In my interview, I was asked about my leadership experience, fundraising ideas and my favorite television show.” Last year Karpman attended convocation and the preformal event that the Daisy Chain hosted. She recounted how the daisies were split up to assist with ticketing and the running of these events throughout the week. She also volunteered her services at the seniors’ booze cruise and champagne reception, but said that she was able to enjoy the events as well as help run them. She wrote, “I really appreciated the idea of supporting my sister class in addition to being involved with a group of students in my class that I wouldn’t have had the chance to work with otherwise.”