Over the nearly 200-year history of Roanoke College, traditions have developed and have been passed down from student to student.
Built under the cover of night in the 1970s by a determined student and a few hundred friends, the structure was known by the builders as The Monument but now has become known as The Rock. The 10-foot stone canvas is painted time and time again to announce upcoming events, performances and sporting events.
This three-foot cement obelisk was added to campus more than 100 years ago after a student nearly ran a professor down zipping between buildings in a car (picture a Model T Ford!) It was meant to obstruct traffic, but students soon began to kick the post for good luck. Now it’s one of the oldest traditions on campus. Kick it when you walk by. Students do, even alumni still kick it when they are on campus. We all need good luck!
New students sign in to class register books during orientation each year, under the watchful eye of faculty members. It is one of the ceremonial ways in which we usher in a new academic year.
Making Your Mark on Exit
Seniors “sign out” by burning their name into the wooden bookcases at the President’s House. This tradition started in the 1970s and has continued through several presidents. More bookcases are added frequently so there’s plenty of room for new grads!
Don't Step on the Seal
The “ban” on stepping on the College Seal in front of the Administration Building is relatively new (the College Seal was added to the Heritage Walk in 1995), but it’s serious business. Students say you won’t graduate on time if you step on the seal, so it’s generally avoided at all costs — until graduation day, and then there’s dancing in the streets AND especially on the seal!
That big Maroon bird you notice around campus, especially at big gatherings and athletic events, is Rooney the Maroon-tailed hawk, the mascot of the Maroons. Rooney is a rare breed of hawk only found around the Roanoke campus. 😉
So if the mascot is a hawk, what’s a Maroon? It’s a color! Roanoke’s official colors are blue and gold, but as Maroon athletics kicked off more than 100 years ago, blue and gold uniforms were hard to find. As a result, the teams had to compete in the uniforms that were available – which were maroon. The local paper started referring to Roanoke College students as Maroons, and it stuck! Now, you see blue and gold mingled with maroon throughout the College.
Legend has it there are a few ghosts around campus, particularly in Monterey and the Administration Building. They probably won't bother you — unless you participate in one of the Roanoke College ghost tours!
The Roanoke mace was presented to the College in 1996 by the four daughters of Hartselle DeBurney Kinsey '21. The mace is dedicated to Mr. Kinsey, who was devoted to Roanoke College as a student, teacher, advocate and trustee. Maces date back to the Middle Ages, when they were used as weapons. Today, they are primarily symbols of academic authority used at formal convocations and commencement ceremonies.
The seal of the College was approved by the Board of Trustees in April of 1964. It features a shield in national blue
emblazoned with a mandarin yellow cross, representing Roanoke College’s relationship with the Lutheran Church.
The cross symbolizes the Christian values inherent in our culture, and above it is the lamp of knowledge. The white dogwood flower on the shield symbolizes the Commonwealth of Virginia. The motto, “PALMAM QUI MERUIT FERAT,” means “Let him who earns the palm wear it.” The palm is symbolic of the palm leaf that was given in honor of excellence in ancient Greece.
Roanoke College's storied past is tied to its present and future. With this immersive virtual tour, it's easier than ever to learn about the history and culture of the College. You'll take a journey through today’s campus while earning about the 180+ years of history of the College. The tour covers major events, the evolution of buildings on campus, the public art, how student life has evolved over the years, and the groundbreaking research that's leading to important discussions about our past.