SRU’s traditions connect generations of students


rubbing the rock for good luck

(From left) Mallory Bachman, English major from Chicora, Cassie Cooper, pubic health major from Slippery Rock and Steph Angelini, a health care administration major from Leechburg rub “the rock” for good luck.

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Although many things have changed since the founding of Slippery Rock State Normal College back in 1889 (including our name), there are several things that have stood the test of time and connect past, present and future students. These rituals and observances, our timeless traditions, help define the culture of the campus and the Slippery Rock University family.

Some of these traditions include saying hello to everyone you pass on campus, green and white Fridays, firing the cannon following an SRU touchdown, the Weekend of Welcome and rubbing "the rock" for good luck.

Alumni say taking pride in and keeping these traditions alive is just one of things that makes SRU "different" and a wonderful place at which to live and study. Pride in the University's timeless traditions doesn't diminish with time. Susan Maxey, '57, sings the Fight Song and Alma Mater each year at an alumni reunion in Orlando, Florida.

SRU really is the "little school known around the world." Ask the bookstore, which fields orders for Rock apparel from folks around the globe.

"I grew up hearing stories about my parents' time spent at SRU, so when I was able to join The Rock family, I had expectations as to what it would be like. Those expectations were met and exceeded," said Andrew Millick, a 2014 parks and recreation graduate.

Traditions connect students for success as they progress toward graduation, said Millick, a mountain recreation supervisor at Stowe Mountain Resort.

He said he thinks SRU's greatest tradition is the professors' "my door is always open" policy.

"Although I graduated, I keep in contact with several of my former professors," Millick said. "This tradition at The Rock is what forms such a strong student-professor relationship. This bond plays a key part in building the strong community atmosphere at the University, which turns into enormous pride within each student in the fact that he or she gets to be a part of such a special place. I will always know that help will always be found at The Rock, whether a current or former student."

Millick said another tradition for new students to tap into involves getting involved in activities such as freshman leadership, extracurricular opportunities, intramural sports, ROTC and conquering the rock-climbing wall in the student recreation center.

"I wanted to experience and learn as much as I could while at The Rock," Millick said. "I can confidently say that the University provided so many opportunities, that I would have been stretched thin and failed every class if I did them all."

Traditions are everywhere. Attend a football or basketball game, and you will see the "Rock Rowdies" in colorful attire leading the cheers; Rocky, our mascot, encouraging the fans and the band playing the fight song or their signature version of "I love Bumble Bee Tuna."

Then there are the far-reaching stories spanning generations that build mystique. They include celebrities such as actor Martin Sheen stopping by and oft-told stories of people demanding that SRU football scores be announced nationwide, including Michigan Stadium, where the football team has played three games. Another tradition is the legend of "Emma the Ghost," who is said to haunt Miller Auditorium and North Hall.

Samantha Rivet, a business management major from Twinsburg, Ohio, who serves as the Green and White Society president, said she likes SRU's annual birthday bash and wear your fleece events.

"Green and White Friday is my favorite tradition," she said. "I have not missed one since my freshman year. This is my favorite tradition because I love to show my school spirit for Slippery Rock University, and there is no better way than wearing SRU gear with pride."

She said Green and White Society, a student booster group, fosters pride and works to help students feel comfortable on campus.

"Green and White Friday is simple but a very powerful way to make people feel at home," she said. "When everyone can wear their school apparel, it brings a sense of family togetherness. We all love and share the same pride for SRU and by wearing your SRU gear on Friday's really brings everyone together with this common tradition. The hello tradition also makes campus much more friendly and welcoming. A smile can go a long way during someone's day. Saying 'hello' to students, staff and faculty and guests of the University brings us together and makes everyone feel comfortable."

Many tradition or spirit events help SRU become a colorful and fun campus, she said.

One is billed as SRU's good luck tradition - "Rub The Rock." This tradition refers to the four giant rocks of successive polish on the Pedestrian Walk between Weisenfluh Dining Hall and Morrow Field House. They symbolize students' progression from rough, first-year students to polished seniors.

Before a test, many students pause to rub the senior rock.

At Mihalik-Thompson Stadium, football players touch the rock in the end zone before every game. They also gather at the rock Fridays after their last practice before a Saturday game. Cheerleaders run and touch the rock after every score during home games. Superstition or not, the football team is 17-0 the last three years at home, the longest active home winning streak among all Division II teams.

The Slippery Rock University Archives collects and makes available for researchers material created by the University community over the course of its history from 1889 to the present.

Part of this material records the various traditions that have evolved over time and gives a glimpse of what helped students, faculty and administration bond as a community throughout its 127 years as an academic institution, said Kevin McLatchy, library technician for archives.

"Over time, some traditions have waned yet some have remained steadfast," he said. "Researchers curious about our traditions and their social and academic influence will find them preserved in the archives. Our collection of original source material should be celebrated because it gives students, alumni and researchers an important sense of what makes Slippery Rock University unique. The University Archives keeps our history alive."

"Students are usually fascinated when they see the cotton beanie, called a "dink," and the 'I am a Freshman' sign that new students were required to wear the first month of attendance," McLatchy said.

Archive's preservation of timeless traditions also includes chapel excuse cards, Alma Mater sheet music, Fight Song lyrics and State Teachers College Dance Cards.

"A woman used these dance cards to record the list of people she promised to dance with at a ball or formal," he said. "Student correspondence, scrapbooks and older films also give a glimpse of past traditions."

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 |