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Drew Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: A History of “The Acorn”

By Jocelyn Freeman | Staff Writer

7 mins read

“The beginning of any enterprise is in the nature of an adventure.” These were the first words to grace the pages of “The Acorn” in a letter to the editor published in November 1928. Ninety-four years later, the “adventure” continues. In order to celebrate the 94th anniversary of the first-ever edition of “The Acorn,” this week’s column will be dedicated to the history of the longest-running student organization on campus. Here’s to exploring the past and celebrating the future. 

Cover of the first ever edition of “The Acorn” courtesy of the November 1928 edition of “The Acorn”

As aforementioned, “The Acorn” was first published in November of 1928, three months after Brothers College’s first year began. Robert Powell, the first ever Editor-in-Chief from 1928 to 1931, oversaw the project. The paper, which began as a monthly publication, included campus news about large scale events, book reviews and humor columns. This paper was written by a staff composed completely of male students. 

By 1930, the paper began to look a little more familiar, with dozens of articles and student photography filling four-page spreads. 

The paper also provided room for the “Theo Log,” a space to allow Seminary students to report on their academics, religious services and special occasions. By the middle of the decade, bi-weekly publishing became the norm, with writers typically focusing on the happenings around campus including sports, special speakers and student opinions. Due to Drew’s nature of fostering international connection and curiosity, the paper also dedicated news articles to events taking place abroad with help from several international interviewees and staff writers. In the mid-1930s, this meant turning attention to tensions abroad. 

By 1939, hyperbolic headings regarding the war appeared; “LAST PEACE DAY ISSUE! WAR NEAR” was plastered across the paper that very April. For the next six years, the paper would detail the Second World War. Writers focused on the effects both abroad and at home, exploring anxiety about drafting, sharing the campus with Navy men, American heroes abroad and reactions to war time changes to everyday life. One such change included the introduction of full-time female students to B.C. (the undergraduate part of the university) in the year of 1943. Antett Buck, writing on this change, provided “the first co-ed contribution to the ACORN” according to the editor of the March 26, 1943 edition of the paper. By August 1944, Janeth Van Dermark was named in the paper as the first female Editor-In-Chief. 

As the war came to a close, “The Acorn” began reporting on sports competitions, local happenings and upcoming social events. In the 1950 edition of “The Oak Leaves,” the goal of “The Acorn” was to “stimulate discussion on issues often overlooked.” The paper also provided students with a place to receive news from Student Government about projects, policies and updates around campus. While documentation on how the paper was received by the wider student body is limited, students interacting with the paper in meaningful ways is well documented. Writers from the undergraduate and graduate levels were represented, polls of 200 or 300 students were taken regularly to gauge campus opinions and sometimes multiple letters to the editor per issue appeared from students outside of “The Acorn.” The paper was thriving. 

By the 1960s the paper had become a weekly occurrence, being published on Mondays. That fact is only strange to those who stay up late editing the paper Thursday nights nowadays.  These students, part of a generation new to college, were using education to their advantage, and for some, this meant exploring politics. “The Acorn” became a place for students to engage in political discourse on campus, especially during election season.

In the 70s, students also turned to the paper as a place to discuss wider world happenings in regards to politics. The 1972 papers included the disclaimer that “editorials do not reflect the views of the entire editorial board,” while the 1977 papers noted that the “University does not exercise any form of censorship over the papers content,” meaning that students could exercise their right to free press. Some students covered the conflict in Vietnam, others covered Watergate and some took polls of the student body to gauge opinions on these topics. Political cartoons also began to appear more frequently. Despite turmoil in America, the paper continued to thrive on campus. The late 70s and early 80s saw an expansion in the length of the paper, more attention to artistic media and some interestingly abstract cover pages.  

The paper continued solely in print until 2016, when “The Acorn” website was launched. Luckily for the paper, this meant ample time to prepare for the unseen global pandemic which would cause a complete shutdown of Drew’s campus in March of 2020. “The Acorn” functioned solely online while a majority of students remained remote. By August of 2021, the in-print bi-weekly editions returned to Drew. While the paper struggled to find students to contribute, the team worked through the difficulty of returning to “normal life.” The organization has survived a World War, nationwide unrest and several global pandemics, including the most recent COVID-19 pandemic.

This semester, “The Acorn” has welcomed dozens of passionate new writers, editors, artists and photographers. The current Editor-In-Chief, Nicole Sydor (‘25) has done a brilliant job of fostering community, dealing with challenges of engagement and encouraging students to tell the stories that matter on Drew’s campus. 

From all of us at “The Acorn,” thank you for taking the time to read our weekly labors, and we hope that you will join us in celebrating our 94th Anniversary.

Featured Image courtesy of Nicole Sydor

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