Graduates taking selfie from the top of Rush Rhees Library overlooking University of Rochester
Our symbols and traditions

Our symbols

About one year after the University was founded in 1850, Rochester adopted its beloved motto, Meliora–Latin for “ever better.” A few years later, the first campus was built on eight acres of dandelion-covered pasture. Today, our motto and our dandelion are ever present as tributes to our past and emblems of Rochester’s maverick spirit.

Meliora seal on flagpole in snow at University of Rochester

Our motto: Meliora is our work ethic

The idea for the motto is credited to Asahel Kendrick, professor of Greek at the University in the 19th century. It likely originates from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, book 7, lines 20–21: “video meliora, proboque...,” which means, “I see better things, and approve...”

Dandelion sculpture at University of Rochester

Our official flower: The dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

The dandelion reflects the Rochester spirit of perseverance. In 1853, Azariah Boody donated eight acres of pastures on his East Avenue estate to the University, which became the Prince Street campus. According to legend, the well-fertilized pastures resulted in a proliferation of dandelions and led to the flower’s adoption as the school emblem.

University of Rochester mascot, Rocky, with two students

Our mascot: Rocky the Yellowjacket

Rocky is based on the yellowjacket wasp common in North America. Since its creation in the mid-1920s, the mascot has been portrayed in a range of styles, from club-wielding to cuddly. The current version debuted in 2008 to better reflect the fierce competitive spirit of our Yellowjacket athletes.

University of Rochester graduates in hat and gown singing the alma-mater at commencement

Our alma mater: “The Genesee”

by T.T. Swinburne, Class of 1892

“And may our hearts
Where’er we roam,
Forever loyal be
To our beloved college home
Beside the Genesee.”

So ends the final refrain of our alma mater “The Genesee.”

Listen on SoundCloud

Our traditions

As a community, we cherish long-held customs and embrace opportunities to build new traditions that unite us.

Boar’s Head Dinner

One of the University’s oldest traditions, the Boar’s Head Dinner began in 1934 and is held annually in December. The dinner recalls the spirit of English court dinners, such as those served at Queen's College, Oxford University, during the Middle Ages.

Three University of Rochester students in medieval clothing performing at the Boars Head Dinner
Students painting over graffiti walls in tunnels at University of Rochester
Painting the tunnels

Tunnel travel has been a way of life on the River Campus since the early 1930s. Painting the Eastman Quad tunnel started in the 1970s and is a way for student organizations to announce events and raise awareness.

Wilson Day and Eastman Day

Celebrated each fall, first-year and incoming students get to work on community service projects. The events pay tribute to University benefactors and philanthropists Joseph C. Wilson ’31, who founded Xerox, and George Eastman, Kodak’s founder.

University of Rochester students doing volunteer landscaping work for Wilson Day
Students roast marshmallows during Winterfest tradition at the University of Rochester
Winterfest Weekend

Embrace winter in Rochester by roasting marshmallows or watching the live ice-carving demonstration while taking in student performances.

Candlelight Ceremony

During this first-night tradition, the incoming class surrounds the Eastman Quad to learn about the institution's history and traditions by candlelight.

Students take part in the candlelight ceremony tradition at the University of Rochester
The clock tower on Dandelion Square at the University of Rochester
Clock Tower Superstition

Walk at your own risk! Legend has it that if you walk under the clock tower in Dandelion Square, something dreadful will happen. The only way to reverse the curse? Throw an acorn at the statue of George Eastman on the quad and have it land in the brim of his hat.

Convocation + Class Roll Signing

Immediately following the Convocation ceremony, students sign the class roll to symbolically join the University community. Class rolls are preserved in Rush Rhees Library and displayed at Commencement and class reunions.

Students sign the class roll as part of a tradition at the University of Rochester

Meliora Weekend

Founded in 2001, Meliora Weekend combines reunion, family weekend, and homecoming activities. Each year in the fall, we welcome home alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff, and friends of the University to experience a weekend full of events.

Experience Meliora Weekend
Students wearing costume props taking a selfie at University of Rochester Meliora Weekend

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