When the Whistle Blows

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The Whistle at Georgia Tech

When the Whistle Blows is one of Georgia Tech's most revered traditions instituted in December in remembrance and honor of the student, faculty and staff that have passed away in the previous year. This remarkable ceremony is steeped in the richest Tech traditions, with the Ramblin' Wreck leading the families into the ceremony.

A candle is lit symbolizing and reflecting the unity in the entire Georgia Tech Community of about 20,000 students, faculty, staff and administrators. In the unification of all minds and souls to the ceremony, Georgia Tech's Alma Mater is sang to remind and relay the belief that hope is consistent and the Institute's ancestral unity is still alive.[1] A salute from the Georgia Tech whistle proudly commemorates those who are no longer with us. A final blast of the whistle memorializes all extended members of the our campus community who have died (alumni, non current faculty and staff, and friend of the institute).[1]

The whistle not only signals the beginning and the ending of the day at Georgia Tech, but in this special occasion, a marking of time and the passing of it. A simple time keeping device has morophed into a symbol capable of expressing community emotions.[2]


The Beginning

The first "When the Whistle Blows" ceremony was held on April 18th at 7pm in front of the Tech Tower . Georgia Tech President, G. Wayne Clough presided over the first ceremony and did so till he was succeeded by G.P "Bud" Peterson. This particular ceremony honored the memories of Tech students, faculty and staff those who had passed away starting Summer 2000.[3]

The first 14

In this first ceremony, 14 members of the Georgia Tech community who had passed away during the way were honored and remembered with 14 blows of the whistle. These unforgotten members of Georgia Tech were, James Banger, Jerry M.Brown, Hoyt E.Coffee, Kevin S.Doanes, Ethan Emrich, Samuel Christopher Knapp, John Miller, Yusaku Nakano, Kenneth L.Selvidge II, Jennifer Stephesn, William D.Walker, Gene A.Ward, Luther S.Ward and Leroy Wright.[4]

The of the names of the deceased were read out, one after the other, with a representative lighting of a candle on behalf of the family. Each family member received a commemorative gold whistle on behalf of the Institute.[4] This begun another Georgia Tech tradition, fashioned around the Georgia Tech Whistle, which has been carried out every year since then.

Student Life Fellow Christ Young explained, "We wanted something that represented Georgia Tech, and in our research, we constantly brought back to the whistle.[2]

In reference to the importance of this occasion, Harty,the executive director of Institute Communication and Public Affairs said,"I'd like to think that a ceremony such as this is a new tradition at Tech that will bring us together as a community by connection the past with the present. It's important for all of us to remember that, despite the hurried nature of our daily lives, we are part of a larger Georgia Tech community." [4]

And it lives on

Since the first ceremony on April 18th, 2001, Georgia Tech and its large community has held the When the Whistle Blows ceremony each year. This new tradition in the Georgia Tech calendar has become imprinted and is bound to last forever just like the whistle that begins and ends the ceremony.

Each year, the President of the Institute gives a speech in remembrance of all those who passed away and passes on words of encouragement and unity to all in attendance to stay strong despite the unfortunate set backs. In G.W.Clough's speech at the 2008 ceremony, he said, "Our life together on this campus is a tapestry, and each member of our Georgia Tech community is a colorful thread-an important part of the interwoven fabric of our life together. When we suffer the loss of valued members who have been an important part of the interwoven fabric of life on our campus, we lose something from the color and texture f our life together."[5]

Its truly a remarkable ceremony that brings the entire community together despite all differences and nationalities. When the Whistle blows, we are all from Georgia Tech and stand firm as one body.


  1. 1.0 1.1 When the Whistle Blows. Retrieved 21st November, 2010.In When the Whistle Blows. http://www.whenthewhistleblows.gatech.edu/history.php
  2. 2.0 2.1 Associated Content. Retrieved 5th December, 2010. http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/379489/what_is_a_sacred_structure_discussion.html?cat=15
  3. The Technique. Retrieved 21st November, 2010. In "The Technique March 16th 2001
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The Whistle.Retrieved December 5th, 2010. In The Whistle March 26th, 2001.
  5. When the Whistle Blows April 17,2008. Remarks by Georgia Tech President G.Wayne Clough. Retrieved 5th December, 2010 from Georgia Tech Arhvies,smartech.gatech.edu
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