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Staying Power
The Oldest Student Organization

Thelmo meetings have always been considered formal affairs; the nattily-attired executive committee of 1927-28 models the fashions of the times.

What is the oldest continuing student organization on campus?  According to our research, it’s the Thelomathesian Society. Today’s student government organization was founded in 1863, when St. Lawrence was seven years old.

But it didn’t begin life having anything to do with student government. That didn’t happen until 1894. Originally, the Thelomathesian (from the Greek for “love of knowledge” and/or “desire to learn”) Society was a debating club. “Thelmo”--how and when that nickname accrued cannot be determined--has remained the student governing body for 112 years.

Presenting the Colors
Thelmo must have had some cachet as more than just a debating club in its natal incarnation; in 1876 it accepted the recommendation of three seniors and decreed that henceforth the St. Lawrence colors would be scarlet and brown. 

Thelmo engagement in University affairs has waxed and waned.  One very active era was the tumultuous late 1960s and early 1970s, when Thelmo weighed in on such broad matters as the Vietnam War, drug use, 24-hour “visitation” in student residences, an admissions film (they didn’t like it), and a palette of “student rights.”  More constructively, in the same period Thelmo leaders persuaded the trustees that the Thelmo president should be an ex officio student delegate to board meetings and hosted a conference on the development of modern society that drew students and faculty from 13 colleges to read and discuss papers.                                                                                 

A Few Thelmo Presidents of Note:
Ward C. Priest ’08: physics professor and a founder of WCAD/KSLU radio
Foster S. Brown ’30: St. Lawrence president, 1963-69
Joseph J. Romoda ’33: dean of the college, 1949-66; Romoda Drive memorializes him
Isadore Demsky/Kirk Douglas ’39: actor, author, philanthropist
Betty Leonard Dwyer ’44: the first woman to serve as president
James Garbarino ’68: noted child psychologist and authority on violence in schools
Joseph T. “JJ” Jockel ’74: professor and chair of Canadian studies at St. Lawrence; widely-regarded authority on Canadian-American relations
Suzanne K. Aquila ’89: the only person known to have served two terms


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