25 Little-known Facts About the Ivy League

by Staff Writers

The Ivy League is known for many things: elite academic performance, famous graduates, terrible football teams. But like all universities, Ivy League schools have their share of interesting but obscure facts and figures that some of their own alums may not even know. Here are 25 random knowledge nuggets about the home of Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Penn, and Yale.

  1. Top 10 percenters: Cornell (89%) is the only school whose student body is not made up of at least 90% of students who were in the top 10% of their high school class. Yale and Columbia are tied at #1 with an incredible 97% each.
  2. They're go-getters: Historically, only 2% of Harvard students have flunked out.
  3. What a bunch of Ivy Leaguers:The phrase "Ivy League" is believed to have been coined by a sportswriter at the New York Tribune who used it disparagingly of Princeton and Columbia's football teams, saying they were not at the same level as Fordham University‘s squad.
  4. Harvard Stadium in history: When it was built in 1903, Harvard Stadium was the first large reinforced concrete structure in the world. But by today's standards, its 30,000-seating capacity is paltry.
  5. Earnings myth: The belief that an Ivy League degree is worth more in earnings than similar, non-Ivy League school degrees was dismantled in 2000. Now, researchers have found Ivy League rejects earn just as much on average as graduates from Ivy League schools.
  6. "Curtis Man" doesn't have quite the same ring: The lowest student acceptance rate in the country is not at an Ivy League school. At 4%, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia admits students at barely half the rate of Harvard, and just one-third the rate of Dartmouth.
  7. Who came up with "student body?": Princeton's founder John Witherspoon coined the word "campus." He derived it from the Latin word for "field."
  8. The start of the archrivalry?: Nine of Yale's 10 founders were Harvard faculty members who left the school because it stopped requiring freshmen to study biblical Hebrew.
  9. Their door is always open: Dartmouth was the only Ivy League school that did not close during the Revolutionary War.
  10. Cornell firsts: Cornell was the first college in the country where a student could major in hotel administration. The first journalism degree ever awarded also came from Cornell.
  11. Dr. Seuss was an Ivy Leaguer: Theodor Seuss Geisel graduated from Dartmouth in 1925. While attending school he was the editor of the humor magazine, The Jack O'Lantern. Also, Seuss pronounced his name as rhyming with "voice."
  12. Trivial fact: In the 60s, Ed Goodgold and Dan Carlinsky, two students at Columbia, organized the first contests for students to quiz each other on pop culture. The first-known use of the term "trivia" then appeared in the school paper in 1965.
  13. Say hi to Chuck: Clark Park immediately next to the Penn campus contains the only statue of Charles Dickens in the United States.
  14. It's all Greek to me: The only Ivy League school motto not in Latin belongs to Cornell. It reads, "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."
  15. Bringing the world to it: Despite its most exclusive admission total ever, Princeton's class of 2015 contains representatives of 138 countries.
  16. And computers cost a nickel: The College of Rhode Island was renamed Brown University after Nicholas Brown donated $5,000 to the school in 1804. At that time, tuition was only $5.
  17. Columbian politicians: More than 235 Columbia grads have been elected to Congress, three have become president, and nine have served as Supreme Court justices.
  18. This was before the SEC: In the 1880s, the term "Big Three" came into use to describe Harvard, Princeton, and Yale's domination of college football in America. The phrase is still used due to the schools' elite status in academia.
  19. A piece of history: Penn's College Hall was the site of meetings by the Continental Congress in 1775. According to legend, it was also the inspiration for the home of the Addams Family.
  20. They're not called that for nothing: Yale's super-secret club the Skull & Bones Society is believed to be in possession of the bones of Native American chief Geronimo. In 2009, his descendants sued the club for the remains.
  21. No Touchdowns anymore: The costumed bear that appears at Cornell football games is an ode to the live bear (and his successors) named Touchdown who lived on campus and went on the field during games in 1915.
  22. No D students: There are no core requirement classes at Brown University; students are free to craft their own degree plans. They also have the option of taking their classes pass-fail, but if they choose letter grades, a C is the minimum passing mark.
  23. And expensive real estate it is, too: Covering six blocks, Columbia University is the second-largest landowner in New York City, trailing only the Catholic Church.
  24. Watch your head: Strolling around Harvard Yard and wondering where the dents in the sidewalk came from? Those dents are the result of cannonballs dropped out the window during the Revolutionary War.
  25. Bible crime: In the days before the Civil War, it was a campus crime at Yale to not recognize the Sabbath or to disbelieve the Bible.