The History of Birthday Celebrations at Milton Hershey School
Each year at Milton Hershey School, we celebrate the birthday of our founder Milton S. Hershey. These celebrations have been part of MHS tradition since the school’s early years and continue to this day, both for Mr. Hershey and our students.
Birthday celebrations first began in 1915, when Mr. Hershey planned a surprise celebration for his mother, Fanny, for her 80th birthday at High Point Mansion.
Possibly the most notable birthday celebration took place in 1937, when the community gathered in Hersheypark Arena for Mr. Hershey’s 80th birthday. A celebration reminiscent of the 1937 gathering was held in 2009 to mark the centennial anniversary of MHS opening its doors.
As for student-focused celebrations, an early catalog viewbook of Hershey Industrial School (H.I.S.) written in 1926 by Superintendent George Copenhaver noted the importance of birthdays at the school.
“All boys’ birthdays are remembered and the boy always gets a birthday cake with a candle and a H.I.S. ring or badge or some other souvenir. The boy is also an honor(ed) guest at the superintendent’s table on this auspicious occasion,” the viewbook stated.
In addition to cake and a souvenir, between 1937-1956 students at MHS received the 17-Year-Old Pin, which was awarded to students upon reaching their 17th birthday to mark their last year in the school. This pinning tradition eventually transitioned into the senior pinning ceremony, marking the start of a student’s senior year.
Today, our students receive a cake in their student homes, made by our bake shop, to mark the occasion. Seniors in Transitional Living apartment-style homes receive cupcakes to share.
We continue to recognize the birthday of Mr. Hershey each year across our community, also with a cake made for each student home on our campus. While this is an important day to reflect on Mr. Hershey’s influence, this day is special for a few students for another reason.
Jailyn Taylor, a first-grade student who will celebrate her birthday at MHS for the first time this year, shares the special day with Mr. Hershey.
Jailyn said that she was surprised when she first came to MHS and learned that our founder had the same birthday as her. She loves that she has a special connection to Mr. Hershey.
Seventh-grader Sofia Young also shares a birthday with Mr. Hershey. Sofia has celebrated two birthdays at MHS so far.
“I like it because his importance is remembered on that day and I’m there too,” said Sofia. “And I get two cakes.”
Many decades later, we carry on the tradition of celebrating the man who founded our school and home and the many students, past and present, who were impacted by his generosity.
Here is the recipe for the cake that students receive on their birthdays:
Crazy Chocolate Cake
Yields two 10” cakes
4 ½ cup flour
3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon salt
½ cup and 1 tablespoon cocoa
1 cup oil
3 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cup hot water
Mix all dry ingredients together. Add vegetable oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Then, add 1 ½ cup water and mix on 2x speed for 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl. Add the rest of the water and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 48 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.