The College is celebrating the time-honored “Must-Dos” for the 150th — with a Few Surprises.

By Kris Dreessen

The Traditions Challenge: How many have you done?

When Maddy Hymowitz ’24 and her friends want to see the sun set over the valley from the gazebo, they get there early. You have to, she says, to get a seat on the wall. 

Watching the sky transform into sunset hues is a decades-old tradition at Geneseo. It’s pretty much impossible to graduate from Geneseo without doing so, says Sarah Saxton Grammatico ’88.

Sarah Grammatico and four of her friends sit on the gazebo wall

Friends from the Class of ‘88 during their Geneseo days and now, from left to right: Mary Beth McGowan Cornish’ 92, Sarah Saxton Grammatico, Erin Henneberry Rogers, Jennifer Ebert Turck, and Leslie Baker Petty. New photo from left to right: Erin Henneberry Rogers, Claire Harding Keefe ’92, Sarah Saxton Grammatico, Jennifer Ebert Turck and Leslie Baker Petty.


Grammatico lost count of the number of times she and her friends and her now husband, Mike Grammatico ’87, spent the evening at the gazebo, but 30 years later she remembers how special each one was. The sky was always beautiful, but the time with loved ones, she says, was the star of the show.

Sarah Grammatico and friends in 1988“It was the time we spent together that meant so much, and the nights we also had, curling up in the dorms or in the lounge, talking for hours,” says Grammatico.

Sharing sunsets is one of many traditions that have united students and alumni for the last 150 years. Some traditions are known to all, like adding to the Painted Tree. Others, like pulling all-night study sessions, cheering at hockey games and playing broomball, become everyday life.

Grammatico and her friends may have done them all, and had their unique traditions, like sunbathing in the quad. She and her friends often get together — and she has brought along the Aunt Cookie’s subs. She still travels with her family from Rochester to Geneseo several times a season to cheer on the Ice Knights.

Three students watch the sunset

Another generation of sunsets: Emily Henderson ’24, Maddy Hymowitz’ 24 and Meghan Havens ’24. BELOW: Maddy’s parents, Michelle Drews Hymowitz ’93 and Neil Hymowitz ’93 at the gazebo in 1993.

“Everybody who has gone to Geneseo has done these activities and appreciated them — and it was special. Doing them makes me feel connected to campus,” says Hymowitz. “Talking about them as traditions puts them in the perspective of a larger community.”

1993 grads Michelle Drews Hymnowitz and Neil HymowitzTo help students get acquainted with Geneseo’s traditions, the Undergraduate Alumni Association created the UAA Traditions Challenge list. Students can check off those they complete before graduation. The final one? Sharing a champagne toast at the gazebo before commencement — at sunset, of course.

Seuss Spruce playing cardIn honor of the college’s 150th anniversary, UAA members also created a deck of playing cards highlighting Geneseo traditions, including a few that have since disappeared. From the 1950s to 1970s, first-year students wore beanies through the entire fall semester. For many years, students waited each week for a “subs and suds” at the now-closed Rathskellar bar in the basement of Letchworth Dining Complex. They also borrowed plastic, dining hall lunch trays to sled.

Hymowitz and other UAA members gave out decks at the Sept. 13 on-campus anniversary kick-off, inviting faculty, staff and students to sign the Painted Tree. Alumni and students can win a deck in raffles, at events this year. 

Old photo of students wearing beaniesSo far, Hymowitz has seen those sunsets, eaten meals at Aunt Cookie’s and Mama Mias, signed the tree, and looks forward to cheering on the Ice Knights and catching a film at the restored historic Riviera Theater. Her parents, Neil Hymowitz ’93 and Michelle Drews Hymowitz ’93, participated in the same traditions.

“There are photos of my parents on the quad and in the gazebo, and they painted the tree as part of their Greek life,” says Hymowitz. “It’s fun to see what they did — and what is still popular, 30 years later.”


  • See the college’s 150th timeline.
  • Share Your Story! What are your favorite Geneseo traditions? Send us a note (and photo!) at

    a student signs the tree

    A student signs the Painted Tree during the 150th anniversary kick-off celebration. /Photo by Keith Walters ’11