Bonesmen celebrate 100 years

By Rochelle McConkie, News Editor

Secret’s out.

What began as a secret society at Yale University in 1832 is now celebrating its 100-year anniversary at the U. It is called the Skull and Bones Society. Since 1909, U “Bonesmen” have kept their organization under wraps, but in its centennial year, members hope to shed a little light on the organization…just not too much light.

“There is some power behind something that people don’t know exists,” said Graham Anderson, a senior in Chinese and business who is a member of the group. “The secretive nature is what gives it its kick.”

Following the Yale tradition, the U Skull and Bones Society “taps” students entering their senior year to join the group, which members described as an “honor society” comprised of students who have been actively involved on campus and who are committed to furthering the U’s success and notoriety. The U society is not affiliated with the Yale Skull and Bones, and though there are some similarities between the groups, all groups are completely autonomous.

There are only about 10 students in each Skull and Bones Society initiation class, but membership is lifelong. Many members go on to be initiated into the Owl and Key Society prior to graduating, which is officially recognized by the U as an honor society. The U recognizes Owl and Key members at commencement, and though the members of the Skull and Bones Society are kept a secret, those listening carefully at graduation can detect the members of Skull and Bones.

Until 1970, members of the Skull and Bones and Owl and Key Societies were printed in the U’s yearbook, The Utonian, which stopped printing in 1972, except for a few “flimsy” editions in 1979, 1980 and 1981, said Walter Jones, who works in the Marriott Library special collections.

The Skull and Bones Society is not currently recognized by the U as an honor society, but members hope to restore the official honor society status soon. When the society was recognized, members had to maintain a 3.5 GPA, and be actively involved in different campus groups. The standards today remain the same, Anderson said.

“They’re the “difference&-makers’8212;people that get stuff done,” he said.

The group is not exclusively male, though presently there are not any female members. Anderson said this year some females declined membership because they “didn’t understand the group.” During the 1920s and 1930s, the U had a female honors society for seniors called the Order of the Acorn, similar to the Skull and Bones.

Craig Hammond, who graduated from the U last year as a member of the Owl and Key Society, said there has been a lot of conspiracy surrounding the Skull and Bones Society, especially during the presidential race between George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004, who were both Bonesmen.

“We really meet as a group of friends,” Hammond said. “We go to dinner and talk, get to know each other…try to create a better bond of brotherhood.”

Hammond and Anderson said the group does not want to come off as elitist or “party boys.”

“Our affiliation is one that doesn’t revolve around us socializing as much as accomplishing the task at hand,” Anderson said, which includes assisting and leading campus groups, networking, working with the Alumni Association and supporting administrators.

According to old Utonian files, a number of prominent leaders have come out of the U Skull and Bones Society or Owl and Key Society. These include: Robert Hales in 1953, who is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Rocco Siciliano in 1944, an attorney and civic leader who is the namesake of the U Siciliano Forum on public policy; Arnold Ferrin, who was an all-American basketball player for the U in 1944; Jim Jardine in 1970, who was a member of the Utah State Board of Regents; and Roger Boyer in 1964, who now serves on the U Board of Trustees.

When Boyer was a member of the Skull and Bones, he said the group was an honor society based on scholarship and involvement, though they did not meet except for initiation and to take a group photo.

“It wasn’t a secret group at all,” Boyer said.

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The Utonian

Founded at the U in 1909, the Skull and Bones society is celebrating its 100-year anniversary. The group is a secret honor society for seniors.