By now I’m sure you’ve realized that, despite the name, on most days there is almost zero vampiric activity at Transylvania.
However we… might have a curse.
But not really.
Just a little one.
The thing is, Transylvania is old. It’s really old. It’s first-college-west-of-the Alleghenies old. It’s praised-by-Thomas-Jefferson old and endured-throughout-the-Civil-War old. Any college this old is sure to amass some odd tales and characters throughout its existence, which, for history geeks like me, is one of the things that makes this campus such a cool place to be.
And out of all the quirky and captivating dramas Transy has played host to over the years, the quirkiest and most captivating is the story of good ol’ Constantine Rafinesque.
Rafinesque was born October 22, 1783, near Constantinople was raised with little formal schooling in France, and later moved to Philadelphia where he proceeded to be utterly brilliant. Raf, as he is affectionately known by the Transylvania community, is one of those distinctly 18th century kind of geniuses that are passionately interested in, well, everything- among his areas of expertise were zoology, biology, poetry, anthropology, and linguistics. He made great strides in the fields of botany in particular, cataloging and naming hundreds of new plant species from all over the world. He corresponded with Thomas Jefferson, and actually came close to being a part of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
In 1819, Rafinesque came to Transylvania, where he taught botany. Later, however, Rafinesque was dismissed from the university under unfavorable circumstances, and, yep, he supposedly cursed the school.
But fear not! Because in an effort to lift the curse, in March of 1924, his remains were moved right here to Transylvania University, to give him his overdue honor. The tomb is still here today- in the basement of Old Morrison, and Rafinesque’s legacy lives on in many other aspects of Transy life, for instance, the campus is host to a (very tasty) eatery called The Rafskeller, and every October we celebrate Raf week in his commemoration.
So while an attachment to a long-dead idiosyncratic genius might not be your number one requirement for a college, Rafinesque is definitely one of the things which makes the Transylvania identity fun and unique.
And with a history that special, who needs vampires?