Looking back at years of Bananas, Ravens

Two University groups, the Eli Banana and the Raven Society, have significant anniversaries this academic year.

By Katie Jacob (English '04)

Two University groups, the Eli Banana and the Raven Society, have significant anniversaries this academic year.

The University’s first “ribbon society,” the Eli Banana, was founded by Homestead waiters from Yale and Virginia in 1878. There are about 18 to 20 members of the Eli Banana at the University at a time. Members are “tapped” to join. Still all male, the Eli Banana is a social organization.

The Eli Bananas donned their colorful robes for a 125th anniversary celebration in October.

The Raven Society traces its history to 1904, when student William McCully James proposed that a merit-based society be established at the University. The Faculty Committee, consisting of Professors Tuttle, Minor and Dabney, approved, and 12 students who epitomized academic excellence were invited to join. All accepted and were sworn in on April 20, 1904. Days later, the group had a constitution and a name, taken from former student Edgar Allan Poe’s poem.

The society gives its annual Raven Award to recognize scholastic achievement and commitment to University values. Raven Fellowships support projects by undergraduate and graduate students who want to develop specialized projects. Funds are being raised to increase the Raven Scholars endowment to the level that will provide a $5,000 scholarship in each of U.Va.’s 10 schools every year.

Third- and fourth-year undergraduates and first- and second-year graduate students compose the 120 student members of the Raven Society at a given time. Students, faculty and alumni must write a parody of Poe’s “The Raven” when they are inducted.

The Ravens will reunite for their traditional cigar and port on March 20 to celebrate their 100th anniversary.