MU traditions: old and new

Several landmarks and tales distinguish the university
Monday, July 26, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:19 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It’s not an X that marks the spot at MU — it’s an array of landmarks and traditions, treasured by students and faculty members, that distinguish the campus from others across the nation.

MU legends have been passed on since the school originated in 1839. Now that August marks the start of college for another freshman class, it is time to pass on the traditions that have made MU a one-of-a-kind place.

Mike Hodges, a senior studying environmental design, said learning about MU landmarks and traditions during a campus tour in his freshman year made him feel more at home in his new environment. Hodges later joined Tour Team and became a guide — through this he has been able to make students more aware of the ways MU is distinguished from other schools.

“Our traditions really make our campus special,” Hodges said. “We celebrate the traditions and hold them very near and true to our hearts. The traditions set us apart from other campuses around the nation and create a special bond amongst the student body and faculty.”

Hodges, who often wears black and gold to show his MU pride, said the MU traditions also help instill pride in the campus community.

“I always celebrate and practice the traditions in my life,” Hodges said. “I think other people see that and are encouraged to learn more about MU. Learning more about the traditions helps students form a special bond with their peers, the faculty and the campus.”

So go out and explore. Join in on a campus tour. Take a look around. The landmarks on MU’s campus and the traditions that are associated with them bring students and faculty members together in a unique place.

Here’s how:



MU’s rivalry with the University of Kansas is the oldest college rivalry west of the Mississippi River.

MU also has long-standing rivalries with Iowa State University and the University of Nebraska.


The first ever Homecoming was at MU in 1911, when Chester Brewer, MU football coach and director of athletics, invited alumni to attend the annual football game against the University of Kansas.

Now, annual events include a parade, blood drive, talent competition, tailgate and more.

Truman the Tiger

The MU mascot was born in 1986. He is named after Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States who was from Independence, near Kansas City.

Truman was named “Best College Mascot” this year at a nationwide competition.


Francis Quadrangle

Nicknamed “the Quad,” it is a symbol of MU pride and history. It is named after David R. Francis, a former governor of Missouri who supported the rebuilding of the university after Academic Hall was destroyed by a fire in 1892.

Most students know the quadrangle as a quiet place to study outdoors or as a recreational area for study-break games like ultimate Frisbee and wiffle ball.

Thomas Jefferson sculpture

and original tombstone

MU was the first public university west of the Mississippi River and the first in the territory acquired by Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase. The legislative act that created MU in 1839 included some of Jefferson’s ideas on higher education.

Jefferson’s dedication to higher education is honored by the incorporation of these two monuments on the quadrangle, next to the Chancellor’s Residence — which is not used as a home at this time.

The Columns


The columns on the Francis Quadrangle are all that remain of Academic Hall, the first and main building on campus that burned on Jan. 9, 1892. (BENJAMIN MIHLFELD/Missourian)

The Columns have become an enduring symbol of MU. The six concrete pillars are all that remains of Academic Hall. The Columns are the third most photographed site in Missouri, following the St. Louis Arch and the Kansas City Plaza lights.

Tiger Walk is a tradition for incoming freshmen that takes place at the Columns before classes begin each August. Freshmen walk through the Columns toward Jesse Hall to symbolize their entrance into MU. Students are given Tiger Stripe ice cream and are met by Marching Mizzou and Golden Girls at the other side of the Columns.

David R. Francis’ nose

A bust of former Missouri Gov. David R. Francis stands northeast of the north entrance to Jesse Hall.

According to MU legend, a student who rubs Francis’ nose before a test will get an A on the exam. Because of the tradition’s popularity, the statue has needed a nose job a few times over the years.

Journalism School archway

MU established the first School of Journalism in 1908, and it has since been recognized as one of the top journalism schools in the nation.

Years ago, two students who stood underneath the school’s archway were bragging about cheating on an exam. The dean of the school heard the students through his open window and failed both students. Legend has it that students should never speak when walking under the archway. If they do, they risk failing their next exam.

Tap Day

Tap Day is the annual spring ceremony that bestows student, faculty and staff leaders with one of the highest honors on campus. Six secret honor societies unveil their new members during an induction ceremony on the quad.

Paddle lines

Until the end of World War II, only certain students could walk on the quadrangle. Freshmen were required to wear beanies and were not allowed to be on the quadrangle. Students caught wearing beanies on the quadrangle were paddled by the seniors.

Incoming freshmen, don’t worry: This tradition is no longer in practice.


Switzler Hall

Switzler Hall, built in 1871, is the oldest classroom building on campus.

While the bell in its tower used to signal the beginning and end of class periods, it now only rings to announce Tap Day or to honor the death of an MU student or faculty member.

Memorial Union


Memorial Tower at Memorial Union on Hitt Street was built as a tribute to MU students who died in World War I. It is customary for visitors to remove their hat and talk in a whisper when walking under the archway as a show of respect for all those died in war. (Missourian file photo)

The Memorial Union tower was constructed in 1926 as a tribute to 116 MU students who died during World War I. The north portion of the building was completed in 1950 as a World War II memorial. The south side was dedicated for all other and future conflicts.

When walking underneath the tower, people should tip their hats and speak in a whisper to honor soldiers who have died at war.

Tucker Hall

The east side of Tucker Hall has thin window slits. These windows create a pattern that would spell out “M-I-Z beat k-U” if entered on an old computer punch card.

The ‘k’ in “k-U” is lower-cased, because MU students say that the University of Kansas is neither a proper noun nor a proper place.

Peace Park

After the tragic shootings at Kent State University, MU students began calling McAlester Park “Peace Park.”

According to university tradition, if a student walks across the stone bridge with his or her significant other, the couple are destined to fall in love.

Engineering shamrock

The walkway outside of Engineering Building East displays a stone shamrock, the symbol of engineering.

It is said that a student who walks across the embedded stone will marry an engineer.


Tiger Plaza

Tiger Plaza was commemorated during Homecoming in October 2002. It features a 6-by-11-foot, 1,200-pound bronze statue of a Bengal tiger and a fountain engraved with the words of the alma mater.

During kU or Nebraska games, students put feathers or cornhusks in the tiger’s mouth.

Official Mizzou Ring

The Official Mizzou Ring is a class ring that symbolizes accomplishment at the university. Upon completion of 60 hours of course work, students are eligible to receive their rings in an annual ceremony.

—Source: Alumni Association’s Web site, a training manual used by Summer Welcome and a Tour Team guide Mike Hodges

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