From a Jamestown, N.C., quarry, to Gray Drive near the dining hall, to its current location near the library’s tower (where it moved in 1987), The Rawk is a 12.7 ton “rolling stone.”
It’s gathered no moss, but this “rolling stone” has gathered lots of paint. For 50 years, it has been the students’ message board. Its lore has been reported over the decades – including the myth that it began as a tiny pebble!
In truth, it was purchased for $31.78 from Lambeth Construction Company by the Phi Kappa chapter of Alpha Phi Omega (APO), and since 1973, students have used The Rawk to celebrate milestones, spread congratulations, and get attention.
The main rule? Messages are left for at least 24 hours before being painted over. Nearby, you’ll find two smaller rocks – the official “timekeepers” that mark the date and time of the most recent message.
Messages on The Rawk reflect the times. In the early 1980s, one message celebrated the end of the Iranian hostage crisis. For a time in 2020, it read “Black Lives Matter.”
It has also been a source of campus humor. In 2005, The Carolinian’s staff writer Luke McIntyre penned a fiery piece of journalism (filed under “Faux News”): “Housing shortage forces students to live on Rawk.”
One major controversy that has divided campus publications is how to spell the name of this imposing and informative stone. A 1983 Pine Needles retrospective used the spelling “The Rock,” but UNCG Magazine has traced the first known mention of The Rawk in a campus publication to the pages of The Carolinian on August 17, 1973.
Under a photo of the newly placed Rawk, the caption reads, in part, “Among APO’s most recent projects is the importation of RAWK. The brothers now hope that students will paint their rawk instead of the statue of Charles McIver.”
That’s because from the late 1950s into the ’70s, the statue of Charles Duncan McIver was the focal point for paint, for decorating, and for clever gags.
Starting in the late ’50s, UNCG Archives explains, he’d inevitably get some Christmas colors or a Santa hat in December. At Easter, he might get some rabbit ears and Easter egg coloring. At any time, creative students might adorn McIver in striking apparel.
“On Ring Day, we would paint Charlie red. On Valentine’s Day we might decorate him with hearts,” Cheryl “Cherry” Callahan ’71, ’87 PHD said in a 1990 interview with the UNCG Centennial Oral History Project.
The wear and tear from the regular cleanings led to a much-needed restoration in 1990. Fortunately, by then, the best place where students could “send a message” had become, well, rock-solid.
By Mercer Bufter
New photography by Sean Norona; archival photography courtesy Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections & University Archives