Jack Devlin

Dignity, grace, resiliency, internal beauty, vibrancy and fortitude — the spirit of the tulip. These values guide the Tulip Princess pageant, which returned to Jonathan Edwards College this week a decade after it was disbanded amid controversy. 

The Tulip Princess Crowning began as an annual event around 2006, but it has not been held since 2012. The Crowning revival — which happened on Sunday — was spearheaded by JE College Council member Joanna Ruiz ’25, who said she became interested in bringing back the tradition after a deep internet dive into the history of JE College.

“I am obsessed with American small town stories and traditions, and I know JE is not a town, but you know, it’s mine,” Ruiz said in introducing the event. “I read everything you could possibly know about JE on the internet, and then I found out about the tradition. So I brought it to [JE College Council] … and they were all super on board with it.” 

JE embraces the symbol of the tulip due to the college’s tulip garden, which blossoms every spring.

Ruiz said that there were many controversies in the past around Tulip Princess Crowning which may have led to its hiatus, but added that traditions change and adapt to times. This year JE College Council got rid of the controversial elements by making the event gender-neutral and focusing on internal beauty, instead of appearance, with the title going to the JE student who most embodies the “spirit of the tulip.”

JE students had several days to nominate their peers for Tulip Princess and vote in the first round. The three people with the most votes proceeded to the second round of voting, held in person on Sunday, Oct. 2, during the “Great Awakening” picnic — a picnic commemorating the legacy of Jonathan Edwards, a key figure in the First Great Awakening of the 1700s. 

Anna Martinelli-Parker ’24, president of the JE College Council, told the News that 20 people were nominated for the Tulip Princess and the competition was intense.

Despite a tight time frame for voting, 246 JE students — more than half of the college — voted in the first round.  The three victors — Cam Bell ’23, Adam Levine ’25 and Peter Nelson ’26 — proceeded to the final round of voting. 

Cliques and camps gathered as some nominees held mini-campaigns for the crown, while others had friends and fans campaigning for them.

Nelson spent his campaign posting on Instagram and talking to people around the college about his candidacy, he told the News. He had a lot of fun campaigning — for him, the competitive spirit was there, but the competition was not very stressful. 

But Bell said his efforts were less purposeful,  telling the News he was surprised to learn that people campaigned for him. 

“Somebody texted me by accident,” Bell said. “They’re like, ‘Hey, vote for Cam, I think he has a good shot.’ I was like, ‘I don’t think I was supposed to see this, but thank you.’ I’m not campaigning, but if you campaign for me, thanks.”

Levine, who was formerly a staff writer for the News, said that the Tulip Princess Crowning was a cute and silly tradition that he hopes JE College continues to uphold.

Levine said that he was honored to represent the sophomore class in the final round of voting and believes got to the final round because he is very friendly with all his fellow Spiders — a nickname for members of the JE community. 

“I think I’m a fairly vibrant person,” Levine said. “I always try to be high energy … and be there for people.”

At the end of the picnic, Bell was announced as the winner of the crown. In his inaugural speech, Bell said his victory was only thanks to everyone who voted for him.

“I believe that we all embody all of these characteristics and we all can be Tulip Princesses,” Bell said. “The tulip is a phototropic plant that gravitates toward the sun. Although it’s not always sunny in New Haven, the community of [Jonathan Edwards College] is so bright.”

Martinelli-Parker said that Jonathan Edwards College Council planned the event in a span of only several weeks and thus time for voting was limited. 

Still, she said, it ended up being a fun event for everyone, so she would not do anything differently. 

“This is something that the whole college got very excited about,” Martinelli-Parker said. “It’s definitely a tradition worth bringing back so we will definitely be doing it next year.”

Jonathan Edwards is one of the smallest residential colleges with around 400 undergraduate students

Ben Raab covers faculty and academics at Yale and writes about the Yale men's basketball team. Originally from New York City, Ben is a sophomore in Pierson college pursuing a double major in history and political science.
Yurii Stasiuk is a Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. He previously covered City Hall as a beat reporter. Originally from Kalush, Ukraine, he is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College majoring in History and Political Science.