Upholding Tradition with an Endowment to Preserve the Lawn
In 2003, members of the Mystic Order of Eli Banana, a spirited and tradition-rich social organization founded at the University of Virginia in 1878, gathered in Charlottesville to celebrate the society’s 125th anniversary. To mark the occasion, they initiated the Eli Banana Fund to benefit the University. In the fall of 2004, the group made its first gift, providing $100,000 to establish the Eli Banana Endowment for Historic Preservation.
“We organized the Eli Banana Fund, in part, to signal to the University that many of the school’s most ardent supporters are also Eli Bananas,” said Beverly R. Carter IV (College ’89), who chairs the fund’s nine-member managing committee. Other members include William D. Walker (College ’75, Darden ’79, Law ’79), vice chairman; Johnston C. Adams, Jr. (College ’70); H. Dill Battle III (College ’89); Jon C. Cole (College ’74, Darden ’78); C. Taylor Cole, Jr. (College ’91, Darden ’98); Robert P. Crozer (College ’69, Darden ’73); J. Stillman McFadden (College ’80); and David C. Wright (College ’78, Law ’81). Because the fund’s bylaws stipulate donations “should reflect the unique character of Eli Banana,” the group viewed historic preservation as a “perfect fit” because maintaining traditions is dear to members’ hearts.
To illustrate, Mr. Carter recalls the weekend he was inducted into Eli Banana. An elderly alumnus recognized Mr. Carter as an undergraduate initiate and asked him if he knew the Eli song. When Mr. Carter said no, the older man promptly “slammed” him—an Eli Banana tradition that demands the younger member drop to his hands and knees until granted permission to stand. Mr. Carter then received a lesson in lyrics and spent the rest of the night boisterously singing with the elder Eli Banana member.
“My bonding with that 60-something graduate underscores what I find unique and special about Eli,” explained Mr. Carter. “For 127 years, generations from far and wide have shared a common link, a unique history, and a reverential observance of ritual that is energized by and interconnected with the traditions and mythology of the University itself.”