"M" lighting scheduled for graduation weekend

May 9, 2003

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2003_05_09.jpgPLATTEVILLE-A limestone "M," the traditional symbol of The University of Wisconsin-Platteville, will be illuminated Friday, May 9, at 10 p.m. in honor of graduation. The icon is 241 feet high and 214 feet wide, and has percolated the interest of many over its more than 50 year existence.

Traditionally, the "M" is lit the night of homecoming and before the M-Ball, held early in the second semester. This year, due to inclement weather the weekend of the M-Ball, the "M" was not lit.

The upkeep of the "M" and the duty of the "M" lighting are left to the responsibility of Theta Tau, a professional engineering fraternity at UWP. The fraternity has approximately 20 members.

"I love the tradition of lighting the 'M.' It's one of the traditions that makes UWP unique," said Joanne Wilson, professor of general engineering at UWP and advisor to Theta Tau. "There is something about traditions that we often don't appreciate ... I appreciate the lighting of the "M."

Tin cans filled with kerosene are strategically placed every 10 feet around the perimeter of the "M." A fibrous, heavyweight wick is soaked in the kerosene hours to days before the initial lighting. Once the moment has arrived to light the "M," the wicks are overturned to expose the soaked end and then lit with a road flare. These wicks can produce 3-4 foot tall torches. There are eight legs of the "M" that are lit. In addition, the Greek letters representing Theta Tau are lit to appear in the middle of the "M."

"We take a lot of pride in doing it [lighting the "M"]. It's not just for us, it's for the whole school," said Mike Wiczek, member of Theta Tau and chair of the "M" committee. "This may be one of the last things graduates and their families remember about UWP."

The "M" is located on the Platte Mound along Cty. Trunk B on Hiawatha Pioneer Trail.

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