Measured by miles or years, it is one of the longest traditions at the University of Arkansas.
It originates in front of Old Main and then zig-zags its way all over the university grounds spanning more than five miles.
It includes around 150,000 names, and documents over a century’s worth of graduating students of the state’s flagship school.
It’s the Senior Walk, the 110-year-old practice of engraving each graduate’s name into the sidewalk on the campus in Fayetteville.
The tradition is as unique as the Hog Call, as there is nothing like it at any other active college in the world.
The University of Arkansas was established by the Arkansas legislature in 1871, and the first students attended class at the UA that next year, in 1872.
The first graduates of the UA, and therefore the first names engraved on Senior Walk, were from the 1876 class.
The name listed first, nestled right at the foot of Old Main, is Nettie Barnett.
By all accounts, however, it was the 1905 class that was the first to actually engrave their names into the sidewalk on campus, and the earlier classes were added later.
From the University of Arkansas website:
There have been different accounts as to how Senior Walk began; the most common is that it was begun by the Class of 1905. A few years later, the class of 1904 added their names on the sidewalk. Each graduating class since then has had their names engraved in the walk. In 1930, slabs were placed for all of the graduating classes prior to 1904.
But for trivia purposes, it looks like Bertha Abercrobie, B.A., class of 1905, might have been the first name engraved on the walk.
Building a tradition
Each year, a new section of Senior Walk is built by UA physical plant staff. The process typically takes place in the summer, when crews begin adding the names of the previous year’s graduates.
University of Arkansas spokesman Steve Voorhies said the process – which includes removing the old sidewalk, pouring and curing new concrete, and then sandblasting the names into the new surface – takes about 60 days.
That’s actually an improvement from how the process first began.
“In the old days the names were done in the wet concrete, which was slow, labor intensive and expensive,” Voorhies said. “Back in the 1980s, a few members of the facilities management crew invented the Sand Hog, (a machine) to sandblast the names into the dry concrete.”
These days, the cost for the whole process is about $250,000 per year.
One interesting aspect about the Senior Walk tradition at the UA is that, obviously, it gets longer every year.
With enrollment records currently being set annually, planning for future sections has gotten a bit tricky.
UA officials say it takes about 500 linear feet of sidewalk to fit the names of a senior class, which in 2014 included 5,400 names.
To put it in perspective, that’s nearly 200 feet longer than the graduating classes of about 20 years ago.
As a result, most of the suitable sidewalks on the interior of campus have already been used.
Voorhies said future classes’ names will be engraved along some of the exterior areas of the campus core, extending out to Dickson Street and Arkansas Avenue.
Future Senior Walk locations are currently planned all the way through the class of 2021.
University of Arkansas graduates included on the Senior Walk have gone on to do some pretty extraordinary things.
There are Olympic Gold Medal winners, like 1942 graduate R.C. Pitts (basketball), 1976 graduate Michael Conley (triple jump), and 2006 graduate Veronica Campbell Brown (sprinter).
Other well known athletes include 2013 British Open winner and current LPGA star Stacey Lewis (class of 2008), and American women’s marathon record holder Deeana M. Kastor (class of 1996).
There are heads of state, like 1969 graduate Mack McClarty, who served as chief of staff for president Bill Clinton, and 1973 graduate Ricardo Martinelli who served as president of Panama from 2009-2014.
Senator William Fullbright’s name is apparently listed twice on the walk. According to UA historian Charlie Alison, Fulbright was a senior in 1924, but went to Oxford to finish his degree. The Board of Trustees passed a policy in 1925 that the names of graduates, rather than seniors, would be applied to Senior Walk starting with the class of 1925, which is when Fulbright’s degree was awarded. So, his name was added a second time.
World-renouned architect E. Fay Jones’ name appears in the class of 1950. Former U.S. poet-lauriat and founder of the UA Press Miller Williams’ name is engraved along the class of 1952.
The first Miss America from Arkansas, Donna Axum Whitworth, is on the walk in 1966 and 1969.
There are well known names in contemporary politics as well, like David Pryor, John Boozman, Mark Pryor, and Asa Hutchinson.
There are tons more. Wikipedia has a good list of prominent UA attendees.
Honorary degree holders are engraved near Silas Hunt Hall, and include Bill and Hillary Clinton, The Dalai Lama, architect Edward Durell Stone, and Queen Noor of Jordan, among several others.
Those who want a personalized piece of the tradition hanging on their wall at home have that option these days, thanks to an enterprising group of students at the University of Arkansas.
Students Acquiring Knowledge through Enterprise, or SAKE, operates a program that offers a framed, hand-rubbed name from Senior Walk that includes a brass engraved plate commemorating a student’s time at the university.
The student-run company is part of a class offered in the Walton College of Business.
Options listed on the site range from a $99 rubbing in a simple frame to a $249 package that includes a larger frame for adding a diploma and other graphics.
For more information about the program, visit forever-red.com.