1928: HSG’s first annual celebration

In order to fix the school more deeply in the consciousness of the citizens of St. Gallen, and to reenforce the goals of the school, an annual celebration, known today as the Dies academicus, was introduced in 1928. The first celebration took place on 28 November 1928.

Dr Hermann Wartmann had first put forward the idea of a Dies academicus in May 1916; while it was taken up and pursued primarily by the students, it met with little approval from the school board and the teaching faculty. Willi Nef then took up the matter again in his Questions Concerning the Business School of St. Gallen:

"It appears most urgent to introduce soon a Dies academicus, with an official academic ceremony in the main assembly hall followed by a banquet or reception for all involved. Until now, the school board, the teaching staff and the students have never come together, so that they hardly know each other. The celebration would gradually become a part of St. Gallen’s social and cultural life and should become a yearly opportunity for us to remind wide circles of society of the importance of our institution".

The Dies academicus of 2012 with the University President, Professor Thomas Bieger (4th from the left)
The school’s annual celebration, 1951 (at the lectern: the President, Prof. Bürgi)

Perhaps it was due to a certain deterrent effect of the term ‘Dies academicus’ that it took such a long time for this Latin name to be introduced. 'The authorities,' explained President Oettli, 'did not really feel able to welcome this Latin "foreigner", with its rather pretentious appearance'. And so, the name ‘Dies academicus’ was rejected, the reason being that HSG was not a university at that time and did not aspire to the right to confer doctorates. Indeed, the focus at HSG was not on research but on the needs of the economy; thus, it was practitioners and not academics who were to be educated here. Many students preferred studying at HSG to studying at a university, as HSG was the only institution where (as long as the corresponding regulation existed) they could graduate after four semesters. However, after the enrolment numbers dropped due to the extension of the study period to six semesters, President Oettli changed his mind in 1932 and started to advocate for the school’s right to award doctoral degrees.

Only after becoming a university, in 1995, did the school change the name of its annual celebration to the formerly frowned upon ‘Dies academicus’, beginning with the event held in June 1996.