Oglethorpe Day

A Cherished Tradition

Oglethorpe Day 2024 is Wednesday, February 14!

04.02.2014 Petrels of Fire (17)Oglethorpe Day honors our university’s namesake, James Edward Oglethorpe. Held in February, Oglethorpe Day commemorates the anniversary of General Oglethorpe’s arrival in the new world in Savannah, Ga.

Each year the festivities begin with the exciting Petrels of Fire race. Modeled after a race in the movie Chariots of Fire, a select group of Oglethorpe students runners circle the quad in hopes of making a full lap before the carillon bells’ twelfth and final chime. This amazing feat has only been accomplished one time!

Oglethorpe Day 2013 (1)Then the crowd, traditionally led by a bagpiper, processes to the Conant Performing Arts Center and the festivities close with a reception.


Oglethorpe Day schedule of events:

12:45 p.m. – Enjoy refreshments on the quad
1 p.m. – Petrels of Fire race (begins at 1 p.m. sharp!)
1:05 p.m. – Process to the Conant Performing Arts Center
1:15 p.m. – Special guest speaker Michael Thurmond, CEO of DeKalb County and author of “James Oglethorpe, Father of Georgia: A Founder’s Journey from Slave Trader to Abolitionist.”
2:30 p.m. – Classes resume




Watch students race in the Petrels of Fire!

Oglethorpe Day 2020: Petrels of Fire

The 30th edition of the Petrels of Fire Race took place on Feb. 12, 2020 as part of Oglethorpe Day.


Past Oglethorpe Day Celebrations:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Oglethorpe Day was a virtual celebration, which included the annual Petrels of Fire Race and an address from President Nick Ladany.

Oglethorpe Day 2021

Oglethorpe Day is a yearly tradition honoring the lasting legacy of the university’s namesake, General James Edward Oglethorpe. A philanthropist, military leader, and member of Parliament, Oglethorpe was regarded as one of Britain’s most active 18th century humanitarians. This day marks the anniversary of the arrival of Oglethorpe and the first colonists in Georgia in 1733.

CEO of Achieve Atlanta Tina Fernandez was the featured guest speaker for Oglethorpe Day 2020, a yearly tradition honoring university namesake and ardent philanthrope James Edward Oglethorpe.

Oglethorpe Day 2020: Tina Fernandez

CEO of Achieve Atlanta Tina Fernandez speaks with OU President Larry Schall. Fernandez comes to the university on Oglethorpe Day, a yearly tradition honoring university namesake James Edward Oglethorpe. Stay up to date with Oglethorpe: Home page: https://oglethorpe.edu/ The Source: https://source.oglethorpe.edu/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/oglethorpeuniversity/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/OglethorpeUniv

Prison reform advocate Anthony Ray Hinton was the featured guest speaker for Oglethorpe Day 2019. Hinton spent 30 years on Alabama’s death row before being exonerated and released in 2015.

Anthony Ray Hinton – Oglethorpe Day 2019

Prison reform advocate Anthony Ray Hinton speaks in the Conant Performing Arts Center during Oglethorpe Day 2019. Hinton spent 30 years on Alabama’s death row before being exonerated and released in 2015.

Carrie Hessler-RadeletPresident & CEO of Project Concern International and former Director of the Peace Corps was the guest speaker for Oglethorpe Day 2018.

Event coverage

kayongoDerreck Kayongo, CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta and founder of the Global Soap Project, was the featured guest speaker for 2017. In 2016, Kayongo was the Oglethorpe commencement speaker and received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Event coverage
In 2016 we welcomed guest speaker Jason Carter, former Georgia state senator and Chair of the Board of Trustees at The Carter Center. His speech included lessons he’s learned from his work at The Carter Center, Beyonce’s Super Bowl half-time performance, and Star Wars, all of which led him to realize, “the secret to wealth and power is recognizing that you have it.”

Event coverage

This year’s theme, “A Dialogue on Race,” included conversation with a panel of Atlanta leaders moderated by President Schall and Dr. Kendra King Momon, Associate Professor of Politics and Director of the Rich Foundation Urban Leadership Program.

Panelists included:

  • Doug Shipman, Founding Chief Executive Officer for the National Center of Civil and Human Rights.
  • Robert Franklin, former President of Morehouse College, Director of the religion program at the Chautauqua Institute, and former program officer at the Ford Foundation Program for Human Rights and Social Justice.
  • Beverly Daniel Tatum, President of Spelman College and author of the book “Can We talk About Race? And Other Conversations in the Era of School Re-Segregation.”
  • Lisa Borders, Vice President of Global Community Connections at The Coca-Cola Company and Chair of the Coca-Cola Foundation, former President, Atlanta City Council.

Photos & video

DSC_6451Special guest Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and co-founder of Home Depot, came to campus for an on-stage conversation with President Schall.

Afterwards, student leaders had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Blank in a private setting.

Photos & video

Oglethorpe Day 2013 (21)In 2013, President Schall made a special address to the Oglethorpe community titled, “Non nobis solum (not for ourselves alone): What is the Role of a University President in Liberal Society?”
Read more about Oglethorpe Day 2013.

Event coverage

IMG_0025resized2012 Oglethorpe Day celebrations included a shopping cart decorating contest and parade among student clubs and organizations.

The parade led to the Conant Performing Arts Center for a presentation on “What Happens in Cuba Doesn’t Stay in Cuba,” given by faculty and students who traveled to Cuba over winter break as part of a semester-long study of the historic, economic, political and cultural facets of the country.


DSC_0099On Oglethorpe Day 2011, Devon Belcher, Associate Professor of Philosophy, moderated a panel with Natalie Allen, CNN International Anchor, and Tom Johnson, former President of CNN.

Learn more