Published on 05/13/19

Addition of whistle starts new tradition at UGA-Tifton

By Bryce Ethridge

A piece of history is on display at the newly dedicated Centennial Garden on the University of Georgia Tifton campus.

On May 3, 1919, a steam whistle was blown to let the citizens of Tifton, Georgia, know that its city was chosen as the home of the Coastal Plain Experiment Station. More than 100 years of agricultural impact later, a replica of the whistle now stands in the garden located behind the Tift Building in the center of the UGA-Tifton campus.

UGA-Tifton Assistant Dean Joe West says the whistle was a perfect complement to the centennial celebration held on campus on Friday, May 3. As a crowd of UGA-Tifton faculty, staff, students and supporters celebrated the dedication of the Centennial Garden, Catherine Tift Porter, a granddaughter of Captain H.H. Tift, blew the whistle to celebrate the occasion.

“We really wanted something we could use to reflect our history and the significance of being here in Tifton, Georgia, for 100 years. The whistle was a perfect choice,” West said.

Stormy Sparks, UGA Cooperative Extension vegetable entomologist and member of the centennial committee at UGA-Tifton, pitched the idea of the whistle early in the planning process. Its significance can be traced to August 1918, when the Georgia General Assembly authorized the Coastal Plain Experiment Station. Tifton was one of at least five cities competing to be its home.

Sparks spoke to Tifton’s fire department and discovered that the whistle used to notify the city’s citizens was likely a steam whistle.

“That’s where we got the idea from,” he said. “Hopefully it will become a tradition and something that sets us apart from other campuses.”

UGA-Tifton established the new tradition for graduates to blow the whistle at graduation after its installation. Akin to ringing the bell upon graduating from the UGA Athens campus, the 18 UGA-Tifton students recognized as spring and summer graduates blew the whistle at a special graduation reception on Saturday, May 4.

“This is their rite of passage,” West said. “This will be now be a tradition tied to our history, as we begin our second century of service.”

For more information on UGA-Tifton’s centennial, visit

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