Devils’ Advocates: 50 years of walking the Sun Devil walk

April 18, 2017

Former campus ambassadors reunite at ASU for Devils’ Advocates anniversary

The Devils’ Advocates student group is looking back on 50 years of walking backward around the Arizona State University campus.

The group, which leads tours for prospective ASU students and their families across the Valley campuses, is the longest continuously running student group at the university. Started in 1966 as a way to recruit more National Merit Scholars to ASU, there are now about 1,100 Devils’ Advocates alumni. Nearly 150 former Advos, as they call themselves, gathered at a “Walking the Walk” reunion at Old Main on Tuesday.

Jen Bergmark, a 2006 ASU graduate, came from California for the event and fondly recalled her time as a Devils’ Advocate.

“We had moved to Virginia, so I came from far away for my tour, and I was so impressed by my tour guide. I thought he was the coolest guy ever, and I wanted to be him,” said Bergmark, who was a member from 2003 to 2006.

The daylong reunion started with a session in which alumni got to ask questions about the current Devils’ Advocates.

Does the group still surprise new members in their dorm rooms to tell them they’ve been accepted?

Yes.

Do they still wear khaki shorts with the white sunburst logo polo shirt?

Yes, but they also can wear black or maroon pants, shorts or skirts.

Do the Advos still take a yearly weekend retreat at Camp Tontozona in Payson?

No. The retreat is now a daylong event at a state park.

How many Devils’ Advocates are there?

There are more than 100 on the Tempe campus, with nearly 50 on the Downtown Phoenix, Polytechnic and West campuses.

This drew gasps from the alumni, some of whom didn’t know ASU has grown beyond Tempe.

Do the Advos still walk backward?

No.

WHAT?!

Katie Troupe, a senior accounting major and the current president of the Devils’ Advocates, addressed the alumni at a luncheon later in the day. She has been giving tours for four years.

“I walked backwards for the first three, but this year we started walking forwards,” she said.

The group loudly booed.

“I wanted to address the elephant in the room,” she said to raucous laughter.

This is the first year that the tour guides are walking forward. Studies have shown that guests on the tours would concentrate on the backward walking and not on the information they were hearing. So now the Advocates walk forward, with the group, and then stop and chat.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

The guides, chosen after a rigorous three-round interview process, are armed with lots of information about ASU and the campus, but one of the points is for families to just interact with a real student.

And that also was the goal when Bob McConnell, the ASU student body president in 1966, launched the group after reading an article that the University of Arizona was…

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