As 100 years of Northwestern graduates can tell you, it’ll be a very cold and snowy day in Evanston before the University cancels classes because of winter weather.
Only five times in the past century has Northwestern canceled classes, according to University Archives.
In 1918 students were sprung from classes only to help shovel out the entire campus, with more than 250 men clearing Sheridan Road from Clark Street to Colfax Street in a blizzard.
Students made the most of a January 1967 storm, shedding “their pseudo-sophistication to re-enter their childhood” wrote Daily Northwestern reporter Kathleen Kelly Shinkle (J69). They dove into drifts, built snow forts, whizzed snowballs, created snow sculptures and cross-country skied.
More than a decade later, Northwestern students had another snow day, as a 21-inch blizzard shut down the city in January 1979. The Norris University Center cafeteria staff stayed overnight to prepare meals, and students cross-country skied across the frozen lagoon.
A group of 30 students even shoveled out 80 el train cars entombed in the snow at the Chicago Transit Authority’s yard in Wilmette. “It was a Northwestern, but a Northwestern I’ve never seen before and maybe I’ll never see again,” Marc Davis (J80) wrote in the Daily Northwestern.
In 2008 the snow canceled only evening classes, but in 2011 the Evanston campus again became a winter wonderland when the third-largest blizzard in Chicago history struck. During peak midterm season, students left the library and took to sledding and playing in the nearly 2-foot drifts. Some students even walked on Lake Michigan, which appeared frozen and was covered in snow. Every Northwestern student has endured snow and icy winds, but only a select few alumni can say they braved a blizzard and made the most of the rare Northwestern snow day.
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