Did You Know? Five Fun Facts about Geneva’s History - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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March 15, 2017

Did You Know? Five Fun Facts about Geneva’s History

You’re in American History and your professor asks a question.  Before the words are off her lips, you shoot your hand up, confident you have the information at hand.  In a moment, you realize your grave mistake; instead of the expected an inquiry on the civil war, she asked a question about Geneva’s history.  You wish you could lower your hand, but it is too late.  She calls your name forever sealing your embarrassment.  But be humiliated no more!  Here are five fun facts of Geneva’s history that may even stump your teacher:

  1. Tornado Warning!

“One, two, three; Golden Tornadoes!”  This is the cry that rings from every sports team across campus.  But where did the name “Golden Tornadoes” come from?  Since its construction in 1881, Old Main stood peaceful and majestically on the slopes of Geneva’s campus.  Unfortunately, 33 years later, the building’s peaceful demeanor was changed in an instant to a weather beaten catastrophe.   In 1914, a tornado came tearing through campus, ripping off Old Main’s golden-shingled roof and giving origin to the name “Golden Tornadoes” in Geneva’s history.  Little did anyone know that a small catastrophe could lead to such a large legacy for future generations.

  1. Musical Road

Left, right, left; you check for traffic before you cross the busy road.  Now, as an alumnus, 20 years later, you return to the same location, glance quickly for traffic, and then stop confused.  The road is gone.  Originally, Route 18 S-curved right through campus, limiting the college and endangering the students.  In 2007, the road was finally straightened to where it rests today.  Now, students can walk freely without fear of what lies beyond the bend.

  1. What are My Options? Grammar?

Biology, Communication, Psychology, Business, Engineering, Education, Student Ministry – these majors are only a few of the numerous majors and programs that Geneva offers students in preparation for their future vocations.  However, if you attended Geneva in 1848, your options would have been rather limited.  On April 20, 1848, Geneva College, formerly known as Geneva Hall, began classes as nothing more than a grammar school.  Established by the Reformed Presbyterian Presbytery of the Lakes in the village of Northwood, John Black Johnston opened the school in the tradition of John Calvin.  With a student body of only 42 students, this little college was destined for greatness, expanding over a period of 169 years to include 1,700 students with over 40 majors and programs.

  1. Not the First One

“Fire! Fire! Save yourselves and grab the bacteria!” Okay, this might not have been the exact cry for help as the original Science Hall burned to the ground, but it probably is close.  Nevertheless, the Science and Engineering Building, resting on the hillside of Geneva’s campus, is not in fact an original.  The first Science Hall, built in 1897 by Johnston, was burned to the ground in 1912.  On the remaining foundation, the building was reconstructed and later expanded to become the current Science and Engineering building with its twisting pathways, endless staircases, and innumerable entrances and exits.  Fortunately, these entrances and exits are the perfect escape for any future fire emergencies.

  1. Birthplace of College Basketball

It is a frigid, snowy day in 1892.  Football season is over, but the men’s athletic drives still surge high.  Little did they know that a year earlier James Naismith invented a game perfect for those dreary winter months – basketball.  In February of 1892, the first college basketball game was played intramurally by Geneva students.  A year later, on April 8, 1893, Geneva played its first official game of college basketball against the New Brighton YMCA, winning 3-0.  Now, the game is played nationwide, but its origins are not forgotten.  In 2010, James Naismith’s grandson, Ian Naismith, visited Geneva College, the place where his grandfather’s game started to become great, the birthplace of college basketball.

Now, you are ready.  With some solid Geneva history under your belt, you can return to your class with head and hand held high.  But don’t get too confident.  This is not all of the Geneva history out there.  I guess you’ll just have to check back soon for five more Geneva facts that will broaden your base of knowledge, boost your confidence, and give you a love for the school you are learning to call home.

For more information on Geneva history, stop into McCartney library and check out the wealth of Geneva history available through print.  Who knows?  You may become the next Geneva historian.


-Olivia Forton ‘19