A look back at the history of Dads Weekend

By Minju Park

In honor of Dads Weekend, it’s interesting to take a look back and see the gradual evolution of the event as we know it today. From its humble beginnings to the beloved tradition that it is now, Dads Weekend has long been an important way for students to introduce their fathers to the campus. 


Highlights: During an Alpha Delta Phi chapter meeting, “Bud” Hopkins suggested that during the football season, a weekend should be set aside for dads to come visit their children on campus. 

The very first Dads Day commenced in which the fathers of students were invited to visit the campus and become “familiar with the processes through which their children were going to obtain a higher education.” 

It was a mainly student-led project, in which all the work was carried out by student committees. Publicity in the form of personal invitations and letters were sent out, and were met with the response of more than 2,000 fathers pouring into campus.

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Events: Dads were welcomed at the Pep Meeting in the Gym Annex, followed by a huge military parade with the University R.O.T.C. 

Classes for that Friday were open house, in which fathers could visit and sit in any courses. 

After the main football game event, speeches were made by the dads, and a vote concluded that the custom would continue for the years to follow.

Football: Illinois vs. Ohio State


Highlights: The third annual Dads Day reinforced the event as a regular feature of the University. The University of Illinois’ Dads Association was organized, featuring an executive committee, whose officers and members were elected at the annual meeting during Dads Day. 

There was also a general committee, composed of representatives of each state county, who were appointed by the Association’s president. These general committee members served as a nominating committee that chose candidates for the State Association’s offices.

Events: The pep meeting, open house, military parade, group picture, football game and concluding address by President Kinley were repeated. Some new events included the “dads get-together” following the address in the Gym Annex.

Football: Northwestern vs. Illinois

Featured Songs: “Illinois Loyalty,” “Oskee-Wow-Wow,” “Hail to the Orange” and “Double ‘B’ Yell.” 



Events: New events included the official organized tour of campus, the Sunday chimes concert, along with the vesper services (evening prayer service).

Football: Illinois vs. Chicago

Featured Songs: A song sung to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne,” and “What’s the Matter with the Father?”

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Highlights: The Athletic Department revealed where all the Illinois Football profits would go: to the building of an ice skating rink “to provide winter recreation,” which may lead to the eventual introduction of an intercollegiate ice hockey team. Skating would be added as an activity which freshmen or sophomores could register for.

Events: New events included the Theatre Guild Production “Remote Control” in Lincoln Hall, and the Orchestral Concert performed by the University Orchestra in the Auditorium.

Football: Illinois vs. Wisconsin


Events: Introduction of the first special Dads Day Dances on Friday and Saturday nights in Bradley Hall, accompanied by music by Dick Cisne and his orchestra.

Football: Illinois vs. Michigan


Highlights: An estimated 48,540 people attended the football game this year.

Events: Introduction of the first Chicago Blackhawks’ hockey exhibition at the newly-opened skating rink on Friday and Saturday.

Football: West Point vs. Illinois


Events: New events include the R.O.T.C retreat and horse show, the dolphin water carnival, polo game and the Dads Day Banquet for fathers of independent students.

Football: Illinois vs. Ohio State


Highlights: Dads Day is “considerably subdued and on a very informal basis” this year due to the “difficulties imposed by wartime conditions” during World War II. Dads Day continued and fathers were still invited to visit campus, but it was less of a big event than usual.

Events: The only events included the football game, an informal reception, a theater production and the dance.


Illinois vs. Pittsburgh (‘43)

Illinois vs. Iowa (‘44)


Highlights: Dads Day is combined with Veteran’s (Armistice) Day on Nov. 11, in order to commemorate those lost with the close of World War II.

Events: On the Sunday of Veteran’s Day, an Armistice Day Service is offered at the University Auditorium.

Football: Illinois vs. Iowa


Highlights: The King Dad contest is introduced, in which students vote for a dad who represents all the honorary visitors who have come to visit that day.

Events: “Bringing up Father,” the annual daughter-father dance.

Football: Illinois vs. Iowa

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Highlights: The Dads Day Association has about 5,500 members at this point.

Events: A James Taylor rock concert, soccer games, films, the Dixieland Dads Jazz Band and wheelchair football is introduced.

Football: Illinois vs. Ohio State


Highlights: After surveying many students and parents about Dads Day, the University realized that visitor attendance was considerably lower than in previous years. The solution that was found was to show off “our primary product, our students.”

Football: Illinois vs. Purdue


Highlights: The continuously-growing popularity and support for Dads Weekend brought in a large number of class acts from campus that expanded the scale of the event. 

Each of the days was packed with activities that fathers and their kids could participate in. Dads Weekend became cemented into the University’s identity as one of the longest upheld traditions.

Events: “Dad’s Night Out” events, hosted by the Atius-Sachem Organization. This featured games, performances by a cappella groups, glee clubs, comedy troupes, dance teams, cheerleaders accompanied by the pep band and an all-night snacks and cash bar. 

The traditional Sunday vesper service was replaced with a weekend brunch.