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>  News Releases >   2002 >   October

Anatomy of a nose-rubbing tradition

Posted 10/28/02, by Tamara Steinert


Bronze bust of Craven Laycock '96

For decades, students passing through Baker Library's Tower Room at exam time have rubbed the nose of a bronze bust that sits between the room's west doors for good luck. The bust, presented to the College in 1931, portrays Craven Laycock, Dartmouth class of 1896 and dean of the College from 1911 to 1934. Commissioned by Laycock's classmates and created by artist Nancy Cox-McCormack, the sculpture was intended to be "a lasting reminder to Dartmouth men, for all time, of Craven Laycock '96—the Dean—and the Man."

As perhaps befits a man whose image is the site of a longstanding tradition, Laycock was well known during his tenure at the College for the speech he delivered to incoming freshmen about Dartmouth's history and cherished rituals. The lectures were so well liked that after his retirement in 1934 The Dartmouth ruefully noted that "the class of 1938 has missed a rare privilege."

No one knows for sure when or how the nose-rubbing tradition began, but in a 1956 Dartmouth Alumni Magazine article, William Lansberg '38 commented that the practice already existed when he arrived for his first year at Dartmouth in 1934. Interestingly, an earlier letter to the alumni magazine by one of Laycock's classmates suggested the bust started out with a shiny nose, the legacy of a careless painter who cleaned up paint splashes on the bust with steel wool.

Laycock apparently didn't like the nose-rubbing tradition at first, but over time grew to accept it as an affectionate gesture. In recent years, a similar tradition has developed with the Warner Bentley bust in the Hopkins Center. Bentley, who spent 41 years at Dartmouth and oversaw the creation of the Hopkins Center, was also a much beloved figure among students and alumni alike.

- Tamara Steinert

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