The Rock (Michigan State University)
The Rock's location on campus
|Year||1873 (original site)
1986 (current site)
|Type||Billboard, natural monument|
|Subject||Inscribed "Class '73"
(covered by paint)
|Location||Farm Lane at the Red Cedar River
East Lansing, Michigan
The Rock was unearthed in 1873 near what is now the corner of Grand River Avenue (M-43) and Michigan Avenue in East Lansing, Michigan. It was donated to the (Michigan) State Agricultural College by the class of 1873. The college placed the rock in the "Sacred Space" near the modern day Beaumont Tower, where the stone became a common hangout for young couples and became known as the "Engagement Rock". By the late 20th Century, the rock had become better known for protest slogans than engagement photos. In 1986, it was moved to its current location, east of Farm Lane, on the north bank of the Red Cedar River. Today, the innumerable layers of paint obliterate the original inscription: "Class '73".
The Rock Today
The Rock can be painted on by anyone, and is used for anything from birthday wishes and marriage proposals to political statements. The Rock is also a hot spot for rival universities to paint. As a result, during football and basketball season MSU students often camp next to the Rock to protect it.
One of the most poignant moments in the history of the Rock occurred on the evening of September 11, 2001. Within hours of the September 11, 2001 attacks, virtually every activist group on campus, along with the university administration, had organized an impromtpu candlelight vigil at the floodplain next to the Rock. The Rock was painted green and white with the words "MSU students in remembrance and reflection" on the front, and an American flag on the back. Several thousand students attended. In a break from normal rock-painting etiquette, the university asked all campus groups to abstain from repainting the Rock for one week.
On Wednesday, April 9, 2014, at 9:00 pm, hundreds gathered at the rock to hold a vigil for Lacey Holsworth, dubbed "Princess Lacey", a young 8 year old girl, with terminal cancer, who befriended the MSU Basketball team and whose story was a source of inspiration nationwide. The rock was painted white, with "MSU Loves Princess Lacey" on the front, and "Love Like Lacey" on the base. Students then proceeded to sign the rock with a black sharpie, leaving their own personal messages to Lacey, who had passed that morning. Throughout Thursday, dozens of students an hour stopped at the rock, adding their names, leaving flowers, and paying their respects. A movement, highlighted by an article in the Detroit News, sought to ban all future painting of the rock, and to preserve it as a permanent memorial to Lacey, but by April 21, 2014, four days after her memorial, it was repainted with the message "Congratulations graduates, be a hero to someone"  marking the longest period, in recent history, that the rock had gone unchanged.