Factoid Friday: Origins of the Rock

Posted on July 13th, 2012 by

Campus circa 1900. Photo courtesy of the Nicollet County Historical Society

The Rock Story

By the Swanson Family

Gilbert L. Swanson ’42
Louise Johnson Swanson ’43
Susan Swanson Foster ’68
David Swanson ’69
Paul Swanson ’71
Tom Swanson ’73

As told by Susan

Campus circa 1900. Which one was the original rock?Photo courtesy of the Nicollet County Historical Society.

On my morning walk from Valley View to the cafeteria for breakfast a helpful Gustie joined me by Old Main and told me a group of guys had decided that the rock was a stupid tradition and they were going to bury it that night. I said, “don’t do that, it gives the kids something to paint without painting on the sidewalks or buildings.” He said, “We are
going to do it anyway.”

“Ok, you do that and I’ll have a rock back here by Thursday,” I said. His response was something like, “Yeah, right.” I just insisted that if they buried the old one, I would have a new one put in it’s place.
The next morning I was on my way to breakfast and I stopped and looked, and out loud said, “They did it. I can’t believe they actually did it!” I then continued on to breakfast. After class I called my Dad, Gib Swanson, and said, “Do you remember the rock by Old Main that people paint?” “Yeah, why?” Some guys buried it and I told the guy who told me they were going to bury it that I’d have a new one there by Thursday.

Old Main with “The Rock,” 1984.

“OK, you don’t give me much time, do you?” Sorry, I didn’t really think they would bury it. “Let me see what I can find and I’ll call you back. How big do you want it?”
Later, back at the dorm, Dad called and said, well, Tom and I found a big one, but when I loaded it, the truck stood on end, so Tom helped me find a smaller one. OK, so, what did you find, how big is it? About 4 ton, I think. Dad, I think it will be just fine. Ok, I’ll put a tarp over it and Paul can drive it down to Gustavus. I said, when he gets here, have him find David in Sorenson, he can tell him where to park.
Paul drove down to St. Peter, David had him park behind the old field house. The boys checked security and found out they go off duty at 2:00 am. Then they found some Gusties to help, and sat down to wait. About 2 am they went and got the truck, drove it down the sidewalk to where the rock used to be. Paul or David backed the truck so all they had to do was lift the dump. Then the guys stood around and discussed where it should go. One said, “What if it rolls downhill and hits Holly’s (Lloyd Hollingsworth’s) house?” And just about that time the rock started to slide and landed right where it still sits today. Well, we can’t move it now, so I guess we’d better move the truck. Paul took it back behind the field house and the guys, with red paint painted Sue in large letters, then each of them painted their initials on the rock.
The next morning on my way to breakfast I got a look at “the Rock” and grinned. The same Gustie who warned me about the first rock came up and said, “I didn’t believe you would do it!”

I said, “I told you I would, and I did.”



  1. Peggy Benedict-Pallas says:

    I love that story!!! What an AWESOME DAD!!! I just assumed the rock was there from the beginning of GAC.
    Thanks for telling the story!!

  2. Sue Leaf says:

    It would be useful to have a date on this incident.

  3. Tom Swanson says:

    This rock was delivered in 1967.

  4. Dave Benson says:

    Hi Sue,

    A great story. I was not directly involved, but lived in Uhler and did hear about the delivery and remember the other rock missing. Thanks for the work on your part and by all of your family. My mom, soon to be 94, still lives next to Dorothy Emerson and the names of your family do come up in conversation now and then.

    It was also good to see you at Phil Swanson’s memorial service and have a chance to visit.

    Dave Benson, class of 1969
    Aitkin, MN

    • Susan Foster says:

      Thanks, Dave.

      Nice that you left a reply. I don’t seem to get over there, now that Peggy moved away.
      It was fun to have the opportunity to place a rock at Gustavus. If Dad hadn’t been in construction,
      we wouldn’t have had the rocks or the machinery to do that. Besides, Dad was always up
      for something like that. Take care,

  5. Susan Foster says:

    The original rock was slightly to the left of the rock in the current picture. It had a
    date chiseled into it which I believe was 1938.

    Susan Foster

  6. Dave Benson says:

    I see your cousin, Lin Standke, once in a while. Usually it is in Madison where both she and our daughter live. She had a juried art show a couple of weeks ago, but I haven’t asked or heard how it went.

    I wonder how many Gustavus rocks have actually been “the rock” over the many years. Do you get back to campus ever?


    • Susan Foster says:


      Just the two rocks as far as I know.

      A group of us that lived in Valley View get together often, and travel every other year.
      We went back to campus for our last reunion, and are going this spring for “45”.


  7. Dave Benson says:

    Oh…and from the picture at the top of your blog, it looks like in the early years there were many rocks. Being chosen to be “the rock” was an obvious honor considering the competition.