Burning question: Is Eternal Flame kiss of fate?

Hardly a flame and hardly eternal, the “Eternal Flame,” or officially the class gift of 1912, carries a well-known but disputed myth.

Positioned on the Quad between the English Building and Lincoln Hall, the landmark, a semicircular stone bench surrounding a 5,000-pound column supporting a mounted electric lamp, carries the legend that two lovers who kiss there will have a lifetime of eternal bliss.

Campus tour guide Rob DiFazio, senior in LAS, explained how he presents the “Eternal Flame” on his tours.

“I normally mention that it was the gift of the class of 1912 and I sort of mention the melodramatic story that goes behind it, which is that if you bring someone that you love underneath the eternal flame and kiss them, that your love will last forever,” DiFazio said. “A lot of times I tell the joke afterwards that it’s not an eternal flame; it’s not eternal and it’s not a flame too, because it’s an electric light that they turn on at night. So maybe if you kiss somebody under the flame your love will be on and off.”

Approaching 100 years on the quad, the “Eternal Flame” outdates the Alma Mater as one of the oldest lasting campus monuments.

Bryan Whitledge, graduate assistant in the University Archives, isn’t surprised the class gift has stood the test of time.

“It’s not something that a faculty member, a PhD, is going to go out and tell students. It’s something that comes from the students, and it has more meaning that way, amongst the students,” Whitledge said. “If it were the faculty of 1912 who created that memorial, it might have been torn down.”

Designed by Max Montgomery, an architecture student from the 1912 class, the gift was built from Indiana Bedford stone, and cost $800, according to a 1912 edition of The Alumni Quarterly.

A June 8, 1912 edition of the Urbana-Courier noted, “The pillar is topped by a block of stone two feet square by about six inches thick, bearing the inscription ‘The Class of 1912’ on each of the four sides.” Mysteriously, however, the inscription is missing on the north side of the monument.

As for the kissing myth, little evidence of its origins exists, though most accounts indicate that it’s a relatively modern urban legend.

Kissing under the “Eternal Flame” has become a bucket list item from many students, and appears in the iBook on its list of things to do before graduation.

Still, many students hope for some truth embedded in it.

Blair Bucci, sophomore in LAS, said she buys into the myth.

“Sure,” Bucci said. “At least I’d like to.” Though Bucci herself hasn’t put the myth to the test, she said she knows of people who have.

“I’ve witnessed it,” Bucci said, “and they’re still together.”

Whitledge said he’d think twice before bringing a loved one to the “Eternal Flame.”

“Based on the amount of gum sitting on the bench and pillar, and the amount of graffiti on it, if you were to take a young lady there, anticipating to have her hand for life, I doubt it would happen,” Whitledge said.