Senior Send-Off concert.
Students enjoy the music at the Senior Send-Off at Midway Stadium, 1979.

Tales from the Archives: Senior Send-Off

Throughout its history, St. Thomas has hosted an array of events to celebrate its graduating seniors. But the one which may stand out to our alumni is the Senior Send-Off. Originating in 1976, through a collaboration between the student governments of the College of St. Thomas and the College of St. Catherine, this pre-graduation extravaganza gave senior students a final chance to revel with friends before embarking on the next phase of their lives.

This highly anticipated social event was sometimes held on campus, but more often, students were whisked away to venues like Wabun Park in Minneapolis or the Municipal/Midway Stadium for a full day of festivities. There, they were greeted with a plethora of carnival-like activities, from the classic keg toss and the ever-popular dunk tank to unique experiences like scaling a Velcro wall or taking a thrilling ride in a gyroscope.

While the allure of food and drink were undeniable attractions, the music was always the highlight of the Senior Send-Off. Year after year, performances by local luminaries like the Suburbs, Lamont Cranston, the Johnny Holm Band, and Martin Zellar of the Gear Daddies took center stage. Occasionally, the event boasted headlining acts of national renown, including the unforgettable appearance of the Violent Femmes in 1991.

Aquin article from May 3, 1991.
The Violent Femmes headline Senior Send-Off, 1991.

Yet, like any legendary gathering, controversy occasionally casts a shadow over the revelry. Following the rowdy behavior that marred the 1986 bash, rumors swirled about the cancellation of the annual event. Changes to Minnesota’s drinking age laws later that year necessitated changes in the organization of the Senior Send-Off. Gone were the days of unlimited beer for a single admission fee. Instead, the organizers implemented stringent regulations, segregating drinking and non-drinking attendees into distinct areas and imposing limits on the quantity of beer sold per person.

The curtain closed on this beloved tradition in 1999, marking the end of an era but leaving behind a treasure trove of memories for generations of St. Thomas alumni to cherish.