History and Traditions

  • Alma Mater

    In 2000 the university community set about the task of writing a new Alma Mater—the official anthem of UNC Asheville, sung at all ceremonial events. The music was written by Jesse Padgett, and the words by UNC Asheville faculty, staff, students and alumni.

  • Blue Irises

    For more than three decades, the irises blooming in May on Ramsey Library Terrace have been harbingers of spring and Commencement.

  • Commencement

    At this formal academic ceremony held in May and December, students receive baccalaureate or master’s degrees, the chancellor confers honorary degrees, and the university presents the top faculty and student awards of the year—including the Manly Wright Award to the senior deemed highest in scholarship, who receives their diploma on a silver platter.

  • Manly Wright Award

    This award is presented each year at Commencement to the senior deemed highest in scholarship, who receives his or her diploma on a silver platter.

  • Convocation

    The university welcomes new students at Convocation in August, the official ceremony marking the start of the academic year. As students make their way to the ceremony in Kimmel Arena, they pat the statue of Rocky, the UNC Asheville mascot, for good luck and a successful academic career.

  • Donning of the Stoles

    At this special ceremony in May for students of color, graduates are presented a kente-cloth stole by a mentor such as a parent, professor, staff member or fellow classmate, which is worn with the cap and gown at Commencement.

  • Exam Breakfast

    During exam weeks, faculty and staff serve up a big breakfast for weary students in need of a study break and a good, hearty—and free—meal. Held late at night in the Dining Hall, it’s a popular social event featuring friendly conversation and the ever-popular karaoke.

  • Founders Day

    Initiated in the fall of 1997, Founders Day celebrates UNC Asheville’s beginning in September 1927 as Buncombe County Junior College and its entrance into the University of North Carolina system in 1969. It features speakers, dedications and special events.

  • Greenfest

    Held in April, Greenfest is a collection of events, programs and lectures celebrating environmental awareness and campus beautification and activities that promote recycling, walking and riding bicycles and public transportation. Highlights include tree plantings, roadside trash cleanups, trail maintenance and other ways to protect the environment.

  • Homecoming

    Celebrated in February, Homecoming centers around Bulldog basketball and includes alumni reunions, a dance, parade, the induction of the newest members of the Athletics Hall of Fame and festivities that celebrate UNC Asheville.

  • Lawn Party

    Originally known as Rockmont for the campground where it was held, Lawn Party on the Quad offers food, rides, games, comedians, concerts and other entertainment to celebrate the end of the academic year. It’s the last hurrah before final exams in the spring.

  • Mace

    A ceremonial staff carried at official academic ceremonies, the mace dates back to medieval times and symbolizes authority. The Distinguished Teacher of the Year leads the academic procession carrying the mace, which was created by Jennifer Costa ‘96 and is a gift of the Class of 2001.

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day—A Day of Service

    While the university is closed for the national Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to provide a day of service to the community by helping local organizations.

  • Move In

    UNC Asheville faculty and staff welcome new and returning students in August by helping them move into the residence halls.

  • Rocky the Bulldog

    The bulldog has been the UNC Asheville mascot since the 1930s. The Rocky statue was sculpted by Matt West ‘00. Tradition holds that students should pat Rocky’s head when they arrive as freshmen, for good luck before an exam, and when they graduate.

  • Rocky Palooza

    Held after Convocation to start the new academic year in August, the party is a night of great food, games, entertainment and fun for the campus community. And it’s a good time for all students to reconnect and meet new friends.

  • Seal

    Created by local engraver Harry Sage in the 1930s, the UNC Asheville seal depicts Mount Pisgah, the Latin phrase Levo oculos meos in montes (“I lift up my eyes to the mountains”), the name of the university and date of its founding.

  • Turning of the Maples

    When the maple trees that line the sidewalks of the Quad turn brilliant colors in mid-October, the university community gathers to celebrate autumn in the mountains with cider, cookies, conversation and fun.

  • Victory Bell

    This Commencement tradition began with the Class of 2007. As seniors march into Commencement, the bell is rung five times for UNC Asheville and its four predecessor colleges. The bell is also rung at the end of the commencement ceremony and on Founders Day.