By James Cox,
Exhibit Curator & Guest Blogger
University of Iowa MECCA Week:
A Week of Parties, Pranks, and Memories to Honor St. Patrick
From 1910 until the late 1980s, MECCA Week was an annual celebration of the College of Engineering to honor St. Patrick. The celebration was marked by official events, awards, parties, scavenger hunt for the Blarney Stone, competitions, and pranks against the law students.
The newest exhibit in the Engineering Library display contains artifacts and photos from the MECCA Week Celebration.
The tale of St. Patrick as an engineer began at the University of Missouri in 1903. Engineering students were lamenting the fact it was such a long period between holidays and professors were giving them a heavy workload. They decided that St. Patrick was an engineer because he removed the snakes from Ireland, therefore, St. Patrick’s Day should be an engineering holiday. Their celebration included a march of the engineering students to the chapel where they found (a person costumed as) St. Patrick, a knighting ceremony, a Blarney Stone, a parade, and St. Pat’s Ball.
The first celebration of St. Patrick at the University of Iowa was on March 17, 1910 and was called the “Engineer’s Celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day”. In 1967, Frederic Goodson Higbee wrote that this event “gave students an opportunity to ‘blow off steam,’ to exploit the work of the College, and to mix a worthwhile demonstration of student effort with an appropriate amount of fun and relaxation from the demands of engineering study.” Another explanation comes from the Daily Iowan in 1965, which claims that “most class cuts occurred on St. Patrick’s Day. The main reason was that St. Patrick is the patron saint of the engineering profession. Class cutting proved highly unpopular with the faculty. It was thus decided that an officially approved celebration would replace class-cutting.”
The 1910-1912 “Engineer’s Celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day” at the University of Iowa had a parade, Blarney Stone, Knights of Saint Patrick, and a show. The Daily Iowan describes the events planned for the first celebration as a parade that demonstrates “engineering ability and artistic taste”, the Blarney Stone scavenger hunt, and “a three-act minstrel show will be staged by the enterprising builders of bridges.”
Members of the Iowa City St. Patrick’s Parish argued the association with their Patron Saint with the “antics and buffoonery of the Engineers” was inappropriate.  Thus, in 1913, it was announced that the name and of the celebration must be changed. Students decided on the MECCA Celebration. MECCA stands for the engineering departments of Mechanical, Electrical, Civil, Chemical, and Architectural. It was also at this point that an open house and a MECCA Dance were added. The Knights of Saint Patrick would change their name to the Knights of Meccasacius. Its letters are from the 5 departments which spelled MECCA, then the State University of Iowa, (SUI), and the College of Applied Science, (CAS). Then the last 6 letters, SUICAS, were written in reverse order, SACIUS, and combined with MECCA to make MECCASACIUS.
The Daily Iowa, March 17, 1944. The Daily Iowan | dailyiowan.lib.uiowa.edu
The MECCA Ball replaced the parade and the MECCA Dance and a night of short skits replaced the formal play in 1926. The MECCA Ball was a formal dinner, dance, and a beauty pageant was later added. The series of short skits would evolve into the MECCA Smoker. Following World War II, returning veterans wanted to “grow beards and dye them green for the smoker and the MECCA Ball.”
The Daily Iowan, March 19, 1932
University of Iowa Hawkeye Yearbook 1968. University of Iowa | digital.lib.uiowa.edu/yearbooks
The only event which began in 1910 and continued relatively unchanged was the hunt for the Blarney Stone. The seniors or graduate students hid the stone for the next year’s class to find. The clues were engineering math and word problems with the answer pointing the way to the next clue.
the Daily Iowan, March 15, 1963. The Daily Iowa | dailyiowan.lib.uiowa.edu
Both law students and engineering students claimed St. Patrick as one of their own which started a rivalry of pranks. Some prank highlights include letting green mice loose in the Law Library, the placement of a manure spreader in the Law Building’s Practice Courtroom, and leading a horse into 3rd floor the Law Building.  In 1963, a one-ton concrete shamrock was placed on the Law Building’s Lawn.  During the 70’s and 80’s the rivalry turned from pranks to more competitions – such as a bar marathon.
Declining participation and numerous revivals make it difficult to pin down the end of MECCA Week as a celebration. But, the late 1980’s appears to be the end of the annual MECCA. The greatest changes to MECCA Week were not in the event schedule, but were changes in the Engineering College as the school grew from 218 students in 1910 to 1,283 in 1987. MECCA Week was traditionally held the week before St. Patrick’s Day. However, during the middle 1970’s, Spring Break began to be scheduled either before, or beginning on, St. Patrick’s Day which impacted participation and enthusiasm. In 1970, the law students had grown tired of pranks, and received a court injunction against the engineering students to limit their pranks. 
MECCA Week began as the College of Applied Science skipping class to have an engineer’s holiday to honor St. Patrick and evolved into a week of events and pranks. The central focus was having fun and relaxing in the middle of a rigorous school year as an engineer. MECCA Week was a week of parties, pranks, and memories that many Iowa Engineering Alumni will always remember.
Please stop in and see the new exhibit – including the Blarney Stone!
 Lindon J. Murphy, “Saint Patrick Patron of Engineers,” in The Iowa Transit (State University of Iowa College of Engineering: March 1965)
 “MECCA Madness Has Long History,” The Daily Iowan, March 3, 1965.
 F.G. Higbee, “A Reminiscence of MECCA,” (University of Iowa, 1967).
 “MECCA Madness”
 “St. Patrick to Be Honored,” The Daily Iowan, March 17, 1910.
 Richard Rummelhart, “MECCA History” in Hawkeye Engineer (University of Iowa College of Engineering: March 1984).
 Rummelhart, “MECCA History”.
 “MECCASACIUS!,” The Daily Iowan, March 20, 1920.
 Rummelhart, “MECCA History”.
 Rummelhart, “MECCA History”.
 C.W. Lazenby (BSME 1950), e-mail message, MECCA Memories and Comments, March 19, 2001.
 Howard G. Judd, “Letters: Horseplay on the Third Floor,” Iowa Alumni Quarterly 48, no. 2 (May 1995), 4.
 “Sham Shamrock Rock,” The Daily Iowan, March 15, 1963.
 Office of the Registrar, “Catalog of The University of Iowa, 1972-1974 ,” Iowa Research Online, 4.
 “Injunction Sought To Curb MECCA Week Pranks at UI,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 18, 1970.