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Schiller – A Carleton Tradition

Kai talks about one of his favorite Carleton traditions!

Kai talks about one of his favorite Carleton traditions!

Today, I want to share my biggest accomplishment in my Carleton career. No – it is not academic, athletic, or career accomplishment, but rather that I have finally acquired the most elusive, coveted room decoration in all of Carleton: a bust of Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller. The tradition of Schiller is just another example of the unique ways we have fun at Carleton and one of the many cool traditions that we have.


Origins of Schiller

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in German literature. But at Carleton, he’s better known for the sculpture that occasionally circulates around campus.The tradition of “stealing” Schiller began in 1957, when the bust of Schiller was in the reading room of Scoville Library. When the reading room was converted into a classroom, a student named Bruce Herrick thought it would be funny to steal the bust as a room decoration. When the bust was subsequently stolen by one of Bruce’s friends and moved into their dorm room, the tradition had begun.

The Legend Grows

What started out as an innocent prank quickly became a defining Carleton tradition. Rules came into play, such as how Schiller had to be publicly revealed at least once a term, which led to epic showings. For example, on November 10, 1962, Schiller was dangled from a helicopter in the middle of a Carleton football game. After appearing again at a Carleton football game in 1965, a student swooped him on horseback. However, the student had never ridden a horse, and Schiller’s head shattered. This led to the “Great Schiller Exchange,” when then-President Steve Lewis determined that Schiller had to be replaced; the process involved a complex ceremony with an enigmatic campus organization.

Tradition continues

Bill Clinton with Schiller

Since then, Schiller has been incorporated into day-to-day life at Carleton – Schiller is the unit of currency on our OneCards ($1 = 1 Schiller) and the student volunteer arm of the Admissions Office is named the Schiller Society.

Schiller on the Colbert Report

Schiller’s lore only grows as he’s met Bill Clinton and flown on Air Force One, he’s taken a trip to Mexico, he’s been on the Colbert Report, appeared in Desperate Housewives, and now, he’s hung out with my roommates in our place! My teammates and I were able to “steal” Schiller after it was publicly revealed during finals period last term, and it involved a tug-of-war, desperate chase, and a runaway car. It’s a huge deal for us – just take the word of my friend Kiefer Lord, who named it a top-5 life accomplishment to have his name signed on Schiller, alongside getting drafted as a professional baseball player(!). Schiller was a key prop during our team’s media day, has been signed by my friends and teammates, and we plan on revealing him at a major campus event soon! Until then, he’ll remain at my place (perhaps with some fun trips to St. Olaf, etc.!).

Schiller w friends
Schiller with friends!

It seems like just yesterday that Kai (he/him) first arrived at Carleton. Yet now, he is a Senior Political Science & Psychology major and Public Policy minor. Kai loves Carleton’s friendly campus culture, spending much of his time hanging out at Sayles, taking walks around the Lakes or in the Arb, volunteering for Project Friendship, and pitching/playing infield for the baseball team.