Bust of Schiller

The Bust of Johann Friedrich von Schiller, often just called Schiller, is involved in some of Carleton’s richest and longest traditions. Those who hold Schiller do so in secret, under the condition that they show the bust at large public gatherings. Usually there is an attempt to take the bust from those who hold him.


According to an article in the Carletonian from the year after the tradition began, Schiller was acquired by its first keepers after the campus’ main library moved from Scoville Hall to Gould Library. Jon Nicholson ’58 contends that “it was the Class of ’58 which started the Schiller tradition, and Bruce Herrick ’58 who liberated the poet’s bust from the bowels of the Scoville Library.” (e-mail to the Alumni list serve, 10 November 2006) However, a story about the bust being stolen from the president’s office as a prank, is also told.

Known versions of Schiller

There have been an unknown number of busts of Schiller since the tradition began. At times, Schiller has been a very small bust, but the current incarnation is a large bust of approximately eighteen inches in height. It has a chipped nose, and its base features many scuffs as well as a substance that appears to be dried blood. Former college president Steve “Skeetch” Lewis famously traded an old and beaten bust of Schiller for a new one in an Arboretum affair involving students in frog suits with a kayak. The following are the known, distinct busts:
.Original Bust
.”Little” bust (used at the Clinton commencement address)
.Current “bulky” version
.A Schiller lamp, donated by Mary Neemes Pennell ’62
.A “giant” Schiller, six feet tall, constructed from papier-mâché by Karen Nelson ’80 for Reunion ’05

Famous displays of Schiller

In the fall of 1964, Schiller fell off a horse that was galloping down the track in front of the football stadium during the Homecoming game. A group of students from 1st Goodhue (intramural team name Vigilantes) came into possession of about half the bust. Another group from 2nd Goodhue (intramural team name 288) became owners of the other half. The teams played each other for the IM football title that year and agreed that the winner would “earn” the rest of Schiller. The 288 team won. Schiller went to Duluth with Mac Welles ’67 where he recuperated and was photographed on the shores of Lake Superior.
In the fall of 1965, a restored Schiller made a celebratory tour of campus, appearing with his friend Ken Mortenson ’67 in the Carleton Tea Room and in the First Willis Student Lounge.
Schiller appeared between “power failures” at the podium with Lawrence Gould, then president emeritus, when he spoke in the West Gym in 1966. Schiller wore a red tie for the occasion. ([1] See photo of Gould and Schiller at an earlier appearance in the Chapel at Wikipedia’s article on Carleton.)
In the spring of 1967, Schiller, accompanied by Ted Lutz ’67, Ray Borens ’67, and Rick Roland ’67 and carried by unknown associate, appeared at a pre-Minnesota Twins game ceremony in which Carleton president John Nason ’26 presented a Carleton rocking chair to Twins president Calvin Griffith. (The occasion was the part of the celebration of Carleton’s 100th commencement. See Rotblatt)
Schiller has twice been flown over a Carleton football game in a helicopter – most recently Homecoming 2004.
Schiller made an appearance at President Clinton’s commencement address in 2000.
Schiller was at College President Robert Oden’s inaugural convocation (see below).
“Friedrich Schiller” was announced by Dean Bierman, in alphabetical order, among the list of graduates at the Class of 2006 commencement. A masked guardian, wearing black, then came across the stage, appeared to retrieve the bust from behind the podium, displayed it, and ran behind the stage. (It is interesting to note that several speakers appeared to reach under the podium for unusually long times before giving their speeches.)
Schiller was briefly seen at the end of the television show The Colbert Report on March 29, 2010. The bust was held by host Stephen Colbert. The clip of the 4-second appearance
Schiller was given a place of honor at center stage on the piano of Rich Dworsky during the October 30, 2010 performance of Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.” Photos on Carleton’s Facebook page
On May 13, 2012, Schiller appeared in the final episode of the television series Desperate Housewives. Carletonian article

Oden inauguration convocation

Schiller recuperating on the shore of Lake Superior in 1965

College President Robert Oden began his inaugural convocation address as follows:

Schiller relaxing in the Tea Room in 1965
Schiller playing a duet with Mort in 1965
Schiller playing a duet with Mort in 1965

Before I begin, let me be sure to inform all, and especially our out-of-town guests, that among the long-term residents of Northfield is one Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller. Not, you are saying, surely not the German Romantic poet and dramatist? Yes, the very man. Since Schiller was born in November of 1759, and is thus getting on in years, he often needs help in moving about. He may appear in the course of the hour ahead, he may not. None of us knows.
Later on during the speech, masked students did indeed present him with a bust of Schiller. Pictures of the event and the complete speech can be found here.

Traditional “Rules of the Game” for Schiller

Schiller must be displayed at large public gatherings. Students occasionally complain that this rule is not observed well enough, as a typical term might feature between zero and three appearances. However, consulting alums of various ages seems to suggest that the frequency of appearance has not changed dramatically over time.


Early in the morning of May 2, 2006, posters were put up on campus, each showing a photograph of Schiller in a different location. Most, although not all, of the photographs depicted the Schiller bust in front of landmarks and residents of New York City. The posters invited students to “Find him” by going to wehaveschiller.com. The site offers twenty-four riddles, many as haikus or in verse form. Only by solving all the riddles could students learn of Schiller’s hidden location, a locker in West gym. Schiller was found before 4pm the day the posters went up.

As declared on www.wehaveschiller.com, the project represented an effort on the part of the so-called ‘guardians’ to return the Schiller tradition to its original clever, creative, and nonviolent roots following several years of Schiller brawls and general unimaginativeness. The chief motivation for the change was a massive Schiller brawl that took place outside the chapel at Halloween Concert, ’05. While no one was injured, the event was memorable for attracting three Northfield cop cars.

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