A Brief History
The Concord College He-Men Association’s annual Mercer County picnic began in August 1924 when the College’s outgoing president, Christopher Columbus Rossey, brought together business and civic leaders as well as members of the college community at an outdoor gathering at Mercer Healing Springs to introduce them informally to his successor, George West Diehl. The picnic, which featured a big steak dinner, was deemed such a success that the local community decided to conduct the gathering every summer. In the years since that first gathering, except for the war years 1943-46, the annual outing has also been held at Lake Shawnee, the Concord College campus, Glenwood Park, and in more recent years at the Princeton Elks golf course in Green Valley. The last change was made to accommodate a benefit golf tournament held on the morning of the event.
The earlier gatherings followed a traditional pattern of activity. Following registration in early afternoon, arrivals indulged in softball, pitching horseshoes, or casually wandering about the grounds renewing friendships and making new acquaintances. A highlight of the afternoon was the formal initiation with members of the Concord College Athletic Department in charge. In an elaborate ritual developed over the years, candidates for He-Man status would be subjected to humorous and good-natured antics and pranks, much to the amusement of onlookers, and then the new initiates lined up, raised their right hands, and repeated a unique “solemn oath”, which without substantial alteration had been administered to governors, United States Senators, judges, legislators, county and local officials, doctors, lawyers, businessmen and educators. The initiation of new members was followed by a steak dinner prepared in the College’s kitchen and brought to the grounds piping hot. A brief business session and the election of new officers followed the dinner and concluded an afternoon of good fellowship.
The Concord College He-Men’s Association, which once took pride in being an all-male gathering referred to by some as West Virginia’s largest stag party, took in its first female member in 1988, 80-year-old Bessie Horn.
Attendance at the outing peaked in the neighborhood of 400, but declined in recent years, despite the addition of the golf tournament and a new emphasis on raising contributions for scholarships. In 1996, Concord President Jerry Beasley announced that after 72 years and some 5,000 initiates, the Concord College He-Men’s Association would be dissolved and its membership merged with the Mountain Lion Club, now the fundraising arm of Concord University Athletics.