Tulane Traditions

Tulane University’s history can be traced back to the founding in 1834 of the Medical College of Louisiana, the Deep South’s second medical school. The Medical College later merged with the public University of Louisiana, and in 1884 reorganized into present-day Tulane. The university is named in honor of benefactor Paul Tulane, a wealthy merchant from Princeton, N.J., who bequeathed more than $1 million for “the promotion and encouragement of intellectual, moral and industrial education.”
Constructed in 1894, Gibson Hall is the oldest building on the uptown campus. Designed in the neo-Romanesque architectural style, Gibson Hall is an identifying landmark for the Tulane community. It symbolizes the traditions and history of Tulane. As home to the admission office, it serves as a starting point for the Tulane academic experience.
The shield with overlapping “TU” letters has been a symbol for the university since the late 1800s. It is a building detail for several structures on the uptown campus, including Tilton Memorial Hall and Robert C. Cudd Hall. It serves as a major element of the university’s visual identity, and appears on publications, clothing and memorabilia. More on university logo and word mark
The athletics teams of Tulane were previously known as the Olive and Blue or the Greenbacks. By the end of the 1920 football season, the team became known as the Green Wave after a song titled “The Rolling Green Wave.” Since then, the official name of Tulane athletics has been Green Wave, though unofficially teams are still sometimes referred to as Greenbacks or Greenies. Tulane’s earliest mascot was a pelican riding a surfboard. In 1945, John Chase, a local cartoonist who drew the cover of the football programs, introduced a mischievous little boy known as “Greenie” that served as the team’s mascot for almost 20 years. In 1963, the first Green Wave logo was introduced, and a Green Wave mascot, later unofficially nicknamed “Gumby,” began appearing at games. The current athletics logo debuted in 1998, the same year that a new pelican mascot was introduced and named “Riptide” by Tulane students.
The imagery of the Tulane seal symbolizes the university’s founder, Paul Tulane, the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. Central to the seal is a heraldic shield. Paul Tulane is represented in two quarters of the shield with identical imagery — three silver towers on a black field — from the coat of arms of the city of Tours, France, his ancestral home. The other two quarters of the shield also depict identical images — a silver crescent flanked by gold stars on a red field — to signify the coat of arms of New Orleans’ founder, Bienville. These images represent the city, as does Bienville’s twisted cloak of silver and red, illustrated beneath the pelican’s nest. Tulane University’s historic and traditional colors, olive green and blue, are on the outer lozenge of the shield. The mother pelican in her nest represents Louisiana. Drawn from the state seal and based on an ancient legend, the “pelican in her piety” brings her young back to life by shedding her own blood on them. This symbol of self-sacrifice is explained in the motto, Non sibi, sed suis: “Not for one’s self, but for one’s own.” The motto is bisected by 1834, the founding date of the Medical College of Louisiana, forerunner of Tulane University. The Tulane University seal is only used on formal occasions. It is emblazoned on the university flag and displayed on the commencement stage. Its use is otherwise reserved for diplomas, official academic transcripts and Board of Tulane communications.
A new Tulane tradition began in spring 2006 with the opening of Wall Residential College. Modeled after the residential college system that originated at Oxford and Cambridge universities in England, the residential college integrates academic and residential life. Special programming and a professor-in-residence help facilitate faculty-student interaction, create a greater sense of community, promote intellectual discovery and generate opportunities for student leadership and self-governance.

Graduates and their families take part in a traditional New Orleans-style party, held on the Gibson Quadrangle, with local food and music on the Friday night before commencement.
The official Tulane Ring, worn by graduates, incorporates several traditional symbolic motifs in its design, including the university seal on the top side of the ring. The left side of the ring features a Gibson Hall dormer window, accentuated by a Palladian window and flanked with ivy-encrusted spires. Directly below the window is 1834, the founding date of the university. On the right side of the ring is the interlocking “TU” shield.
During the fall semester, the Tulane ring is presented to upperclassmen by the university president in a ceremony held in Rogers Memorial Chapel. It is customary that after receiving their rings, students place the rings on their left ring fingers with the university seal facing inward. Once a student graduates, the seal is turned to face outward, signifying that the wearer is an alumnus of Tulane.
President Mike Fitts wears the presidential robe and chain of office.THE PRESIDENTIAL COSTUME
The presidential robe is tailored in the deep green color of the Tulane campus trees. It is adorned with chevrons and panels of black velvet. The robe’s sleeves are emblazoned with four chevrons, a distinction reserved for the presidential rank. The heraldic shield from the university seal is embroidered on each of the front velvet panels. The satin inside the presidential doctoral hood is green and blue — the colors of Tulane. The presidential hat is an eight-cornered black velvet soft tam with a gold metallic tassel. The presidential academic costume was designed to represent the university and the office of the president, not any particular holder of the office.
The Tulane presidential chain of office — representing the president’s authority as head of the university — features the university seal suspended from a chain. The chain embodies two repeated motifs: a stylized "TU" shield and oak leaves, portraying the stately trees that line the Tulane campus. Alan Hill of Symmetry Jewelers designed the chain of office. He earned a bachelor of science from Tulane in 1973.
The tradition of the academic mace goes back to 1385 at the University of Vienna. Tulane’s academic mace was created in 1999, and is carried and mounted on stage when degrees are granted or when the faculty is assembled in formal academic dress. Made of silver and African Blackwood, the mace was designed by Jonathan Hils, who earned a master of fine arts from Tulane in 1999. The design incorporates imagery from the university seal and from Newcomb Pottery. The pattern of entwined ivy etched on the silver base is a symbol of Tulane’s antecedent, the Medical College of Louisiana. The names and dates of service of the 15 presidents of Tulane University are engraved on a spiral silver band around the wooden shaft.
Traditionally, the Tulane Victory Bell is rung after Tulane victories. The Victory Bell was cast in 1825 for the Leche family. It was donated to Tulane by Richard W. Leche, who was governor of Louisiana in 1936-39. On April 1, 2011, the bell was dedicated to the memory of the late Tulane alumnus Bobby Boudreau ('51, '53). Housed at McAlister Auditorium plaza, the base of the bell is inscribed to denote: "This Victory Bell celebrates the spirit of Bobby Boudreau, whose 'ROLL WAVE' will forever sound across campus." In a new tradition started in 2011, first-year students rub the bell for luck after the Convocation Ceremony.

It bears no relation to the real Blarney Stone in Ireland, and its origins on Tulane’s uptown campus are unclear, but for many years Tulane’s Blarney Stone was the object of rivalry between students from the School of Engineering and the School of Business, with each school successively abducting it from the other. Since 1994, it has been firmly affixed to a pedestal outside of Stanley Thomas Hall.
The Tulane Marching Band reached regional and national prominence under the direction of John Morrissey from 1938 to 1968. The band dissolved in the mid-1970s, but in 2004 a student-led group became the catalyst for the re-formation of the band. The music department picked up the momentum and hired Barry Spanier as the university’s new band director. The reformed marching band, with about 50 members, new uniforms and a new drum line, debuted in fall 2006. 

The Tulane Hullabaloo first appeared on January 16, 1920. Previous names for the student-run newspaper were Tulane Weekly and Olive and Blue. The new name was chosen because it was unique and already associated with Tulane thanks to the Hullabaloo cheer, which was written around the turn of the century.
Newcomb Pottery was established in 1894 by faculty members Ellsworth Woodward and Mary Given Sheerer as an ambitious program of vocational training for young women artists. Influenced by the English Arts and Crafts movement, Newcomb Pottery became one of the most significant American art potteries of the first half of the twentieth century. Working with designs evocative of the American South and using local and regional clay, Newcomb potters and designers were awarded eight medals at international exhibitions before 1916. Their products were sold from the Pottery building on Camp Street. The Pottery employed about 90 Newcomb graduates during its years of operation. Production ceased in 1940, but Newcomb Pottery is today highly valued by collectors and art historians.

Between 1894 and 1896, several Tiffany windows were commissioned by Josephine Louise Newcomb and members of her family for the chapel at Newcomb College’s original campus on Washington Avenue. The Resurrection and Supper at Emmaus triptychs now are installed in Woodward Way of the Woldenberg Art Center of Newcomb College. The King David, St. Cecaelia, Good Samaritan and Rose Window are now in the Myra Clare Rogers Memorial Chapel. In 1903, the Tilton family purchased the Art & Literature windows that grace the Tilton Hall lobby.
The oak trees on the Newcomb Quad were transplanted from Newcomb’s original campus on Washington Avenue when the school moved to Broadway in 1918.