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History & Traditions

School Traditions

A rich tapestry of longstanding (and newer) traditions nurtures the strong community of Mercersburg students, faculty, and alumni. From special places on campus to weekly community events, our traditions bring spirit and warmth to our lives and connect the school's past with its present and future.

List of 8 items.

  • Alma Mater

    Mercersburg’s official school song, with lyrics by Thomas A. Crichton and music arranged by Henry Ready, is sung by the student body “with full hearts and loud swelling cheers.”
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  • Commencement Weekend

    A two-day celebration of the senior class begins with the traditional Baccalaureate service in the Irvine Memorial Chapel, which features a processional of faculty (in full academic regalia) followed by the flag of each nation represented in the graduating class and then the class itself. Seniors receive their diplomas the following morning in an outdoor ceremony on the graduation platform between Keil Hall and South Cottage. (By tradition, students refrain their entire academic careers from setting foot on the platform until Commencement day arrives.)
  • Community Gatherings/Chapel Programs

    Most Fridays in the Burgin Center for the Arts or the Irvine Memorial Chapel, students (often seniors) or invited guests take to the podium to share subjects that have personal meaning to them. Whether it’s a personal reflection on lessons learned, a musical or dramatic performance, or a bittersweet (or humorous!) piece about facing challenges, graduation, or growing up, these gatherings strengthen our community and nurture its character.
  • Family-style Meals

    Students, faculty, and faculty families dine together at assigned tables in Ford Hall every weekday during the lunch hour. Students take turns carrying trays of food from the kitchen to individual tables and then cleaning up following the meal—tasks that once fell exclusively to students on scholarship (known in Mercersburg parlance as “working boys”), but are now shared equally by all members of the student body in a display of egalitarianism.
  • Irving-Marshall Week

    In this spirited weeklong competition held at the close of the winter term, the student body divides in half as the Washington Irving Literary Society squares off against the John Marshall Literary Society in everything from chess and basketball to Ping-Pong and swimming. Students wear Irving’s red and white or Marshall’s blue and yellow proudly, becoming part of standing-room-only audiences as they cheer for fellow society members. The centerpiece event, a speaking contest known as Declamation, follows a formal dinner. The head of school announces the winning society at a post-Declamation dance.
  • Painting the Numbers

    Members of the senior class who are in their fourth year at Mercersburg bond together in a late-night gathering at the beginning of Spirit Week by putting their own unique stamp on the intersection in front of Main Hall. Copious amounts of blue and white paint are involved (through not all of the paint ends up on the street).
  • Step Songs

    On the Friday evening of Alumni Weekend (Mercersburg’s version of homecoming), the student body assembles on the Main Hall steps to belt out a traditional mix of school songs and vigorous cheers for the enjoyment of alumni that have returned to campus and to drum up excitement for a full day of athletic contests against a Mid-Atlantic Prep League rival. An all-school bonfire follows.
  • The Harkness Table

    At many other schools, a classroom table is, well, a table. But at Mercersburg, the Harkness table is a hallmark. It’s where you’ll sit eye to eye, mind to mind, with your teacher and your classmates—equal partners in the search for truths about you and your world.
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Founded in 1893 in the heart of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic, Mercersburg is a private, coed, college preparatory boarding school with approximately 440 students (15 percent are day), grades 9-12 and postgraduate.
We offer 170 courses, including AP and Honors, more than $6 million in financial aid, 26 varsity sports, and a state-of-the-art performing and visual arts center.
Located 90 minutes from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, and within easy driving distance to New York City, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.
300 East Seminary Street, Mercersburg PA 17236
717-328-6173