The Rotunda is Southern Methodist University’s student yearbook. Named in December 1915, the Executive Council of the Student Association voted for this evocative name after seven different students suggested it. Senior students voted to wear their cap and gowns for their portraits. The staff vowed to use only Dallas printers, engravers, and photographers. The first issue was 256 pages. Like most college annuals of its time, Rotunda included photographs of students in each class group, but focused on Seniors. Other sections included campus organizations, fraternities and sororities, sports, professors, photographs of campus, and advertisements.
From 1916 to 1940 Saddleburr, a humor section, was featured at the back of the book. The humor section so offended SMU President Selecman in 1927 that he ordered all copies of the Rotunda confiscated to have an offending page cut out of the book.
From 1916 through 1983, the Rotunda included a “Campus Beauties” section that had photos of the prettiest girls on campus. Some years, the women were selected by special elections. In 1952, celebrities Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis selected the lovely ladies.
The Rotunda followed larger national trends—both in design and content. In the earliest days, much of the artwork were illustrations, often drawn by students. As the price of photography went down—and printing processes changed, photography overtook illustrations.