On April 7, Le Moyne College will recognize the 40th anniversary of the first celebration of Dolphy Day. The traditional spontaneous student event will still be celebrated later in April, but this year the College community will mark the 40th anniversary milestone in a much different way -- one that will focus on the namesake for this Le Moyne tradition: legendary jazz musician Eric Dolphy.
From “Against the Sky,” Le Moyne’s 50-year history book written by History Professor Dr. John Langdon.
"The Dolphy Day tradition began in the spring of 1971 as a spontaneous celebration of the first truly warm day after the vernal equinox. Legend proclaims that a supernatural being known as the "Grand Wizard" came to earth on the eve of that day and made his wishes known to a humble Le Moyne student. That student arranged to have the trees on campus decorated with toilet paper as a sign that everyone should feel free to cut classes, recline on the grass, and "groove." There were three prerequisites: the sun should be shining brightly (not a condition to be taken for granted in Syracuse ), the temperature should be warm, and the ground should be dry enough to retain its firmness throughout the day's festivities… Eric Dolphy, after whom Dolphy Day was named, was at first glance a relatively unlikely candidate for the honor. Born in Los Angeles in 1928, he was one of the most versatile and innovative jazz musicians of the 20th century…. Dolphy was selected as the namesake of Le Moyne's spring celebration for three reasons. First, he was well known among jazz aficionados on campus despite his death at age 36 seven years earlier. Second, a rock group known as the Mothers of Invention had acknowledged its musical debt to Dolphy by holding what it called "The Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue" in Los Angeles one week before the Grand Wizard appeared at Le Moyne. Dolphy's name had therefore gained recent media exposure. Finally, the name "Dolphy" bears a distinct although not absolute resemblance to the name of the Le Moyne College mascot, the Green Dolphin…. for most of the revelers each spring, Eric Dolphy Day retains at least some of the magic it once possessed. In the words of the Wizard: "Strive as Eric Dolphy did for those realms of spirituality never before attained. Live in the eternal moment, heeding not the bells of artificial time and knowledge. Don't let it pass you by. It's like shakin' hands with an angel!"