A century of the Bobcats

A century of the Bobcats

By Katy SmithUniversity Alumni and Development Program
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Members of the 2019-20 class of Bobcats are shown at the Lighting of "A" Mountain ceremony. (Photo by Chris Richards/University of Arizona)
Members of the 2019-20 class of Bobcats are shown at the Lighting of "A" Mountain ceremony. (Photo by Chris Richards/University of Arizona)
President Robert C. Robbins shakes the hand of student Maddie Halaburda. In the background are (from left) students Marshall Fern, Riley Campbell and Trent Waller. All four students were members of the Bobcats.
President Robert C. Robbins shakes the hand of student Maddie Halaburda. In the background are (from left) students Marshall Fern, Riley Campbell and Trent Waller. All four students were members of the Bobcats.

The Bobcats honorary student society, formed in response to tensions between students and University administration in the early 1920s, marks its 100th anniversary this month.

Members of the Bobcats, and the approximately 1,000 living alumni who were members of the honorary, plan to celebrate with in-person and virtual events on Feb. 22, the exact date of the organization's founding.

There are only 13 members each year, all seniors. They serve the University by organizing student efforts for Homecoming, leading campus tours for supporters and special guests, performing community service, and working with other student groups on their service efforts. They also plan and host Evening of Excellence, an event where student academic and philanthropic achievements are recognized.

Each class of Bobcats selects the members who will succeed them. Each year, the Bobcats also choose two to three honorary Bobcats in recognition of individuals who exemplify service, make significant contributions and bring honor or recognition to the University.

University President Robert C. Robbins was selected as an honorary Bobcat in 2018.

"I am very proud to be an honorary Bobcat, and it has been a true privilege to work with the Bobcats every year – the new cohort as well as the alumni who remain dedicated to serving the University of Arizona," Robbins said. "The Bobcats are an incredible group of people who have done so much to create a positive culture around campus and beyond for the past 100 years. I am grateful for everything they do."

History of the Bobcats

The Bobcats honorary – whose motto is "eternal vigilance" – was founded for the purpose of "preserving the unity and welfare of the University of Arizona by always being alert to guide in the right direction." Its creed is "an open, frank, sincere and unbiased group that knows no party lines, harbors no petty jealousies and idolizes the person who has the welfare of the University of Arizona at heart."

The organization was formed in response to tensions between students and University administration, according to historical documentation. At the time – the early 1920s – hazing of first-year students by upperclassmen was a popular practice. University administrators took a strong stand against hazing practices – such as cutting students' hair or painting their heads green – and expelled those who took part. Students fought back by threatening an organized strike.

On Feb. 22, 1922, a small group of students came together in an effort to create a leadership body that would help students form consensus and communicate with administrators. The Bobcats honorary originally was called the Wildcats and its members were anonymous and exclusively male. The name changed to the Bobcats a few months later.

Other changes unfolded over the years.

  • In 1930, the membership was limited to students in their senior year.
  • The number of members of each Bobcats class was set at 13 around 1936 or 1937.
  • In 1987, following a lawsuit, women became eligible for selection as members of the Bobcats. The first female Bobcat was Kira Finkler. That same year, the group chose two women as honorary Bobcats, Mary Levy Peachin and Anna Marie Chalk.

Chalk was a staff member at the Arizona Alumni Association and served as co-adviser to the group for many years alongside Kent Rollins, former president of the association. Chalk, who died in 2020, is remembered fondly by many Bobcat alumni, including Angie Johnson, the group's first female president and chair of the 100th anniversary committee.

"She would always tell us to go out in the world and remember who you represent, and to not forget to come home," Johnson said. "She said keeping that connection will take you far in life and make you even prouder to be a Wildcat."

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