College Night: The oldest college tradition

Published 5:14 pm Monday, February 6, 2012

Reynolds Hall holds one of the theaters used for College Night practices. (Contributed)

By BETH CHAPMAN / Community Columnist

College Night at the University of Montevallo is the oldest college tradition in the United States. Just tell anyone that you went to UM and they will ask if you were a purple or gold.

College Night occurs in February each year and it features events in which the two sides, purples and golds, compete. The grand finale occurs on a Saturday night after all the athletic events and other competitions have concluded. The Broadway-like production wraps the week up and the winner is announced.

Each side creates a play — a musical. Students write and direct it along with the music, costumes, build the sets, gather the props, direct the play, create the choreography — every single thing that would be done in any production.

Each side is given a budget and earns points for completing all their responsibilities without going over it. Don’t you wish Congress would take a few lessons from them?

Each side elects a male and female leader. Those leaders choose a cabinet that heads up committees such as finance, publicity, costumes, athletics, orchestra, sets, lights, sound, director stage manager — everything needed to produce a phenomenal event.

The action begins when the students return from Christmas holidays. They have continual cabinet meetings, rehearsals and practices until the final competition occurs in February.

College Night is more than just a tradition. It is a practice in business and from it evolves multiple lessons of life. How to create and implement plans, organize people, conserve and account for money, promote an event, share team spirit and work well with others are all a part of the tradition that has put the University of Montevallo on the national map.

Add to this tradition a beautiful campus and an excellent educational opportunity and you’ve got a world-class educational institution.

I was elected College Night Purple Leader in 1984 and I credit it as one of the top three experiences that taught me how to manage events, people and budgets well. It was a real lesson in leadership.

This year’s College Night festivities will begin on Wednesday, Feb. 8, and will run through Feb. 11. For tickets or more information visit

Beth Chapman, Alabama’s secretary of state, is a Shelby County resident and writes a weekly column for the Shelby County Reporter. You can reach her at