History & Traditions

CU-Boulder's history is one of vision and determination-useful traits for pioneers dreaming of educational opportunities in the days of the Colorado Territory. In 1876, both the university and the state of Colorado were formally established. Forty-four students formed the first class, taught by three instructors. Situated on a "barren and wind-swept plain," Old Main housed not only the first classrooms, but the president's home, the library, and the janitor's quarters.

In the 135 years since that modest beginning, our university has blossomed in size and quality-attracting superb faculty, staff, and students to our breathtaking campus set against the Flatirons. We have built strong academic programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines. Over the years, we have also claimed a number of Nobel laureates, MacArthur Fellows, and elected members of prestigious national organizations and academies.

Today, we embrace our role as the Colorado's flagship public research university. The rich interplay of ideas across academic boundaries on our campus has fostered a spirit of innovation and discovery that puts us in a unique position-both to serve the people of Colorado and to enhance the well being of humankind through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

CU-Boulder's Mascot, Ralphie Ralphie

CU-Boulder has one of the most majestic and popular college mascots in all of intercollegiate athletics, a real buffalo named Ralphie. "Ralphie IV" and her handlers lead the football team out on the field at the beginning and second half of each football game.

School Colors

CU-Boulder Marching BandSince 1888, CU-Boulder students have proudly worn the official school colors: silver and gold, symbolizing the mineral riches of Colorado. Today, black is often used as a background color to provide greater contrast for the gold.

Graduation Traditions

On June 9, 1935, President Norlin, an articulate speaker, gave a baccalaureate address that has become the traditional charge to graduates of the university. It is now read at each commencement on all four CU campuses.

Macky AuditoriumCampus Bells

The first University Bell was hung in the belfry of Old Main in 1878. It signaled class changes until 1926, when a large crack appeared during the celebratory ringing that followed a football victory over the Colorado School of Mines.

The carillon bells (a set of bells played by a keyboard) are located in Macky Auditorium and they can be heard ringing out across campus at the top of the hour.

Colorado Creed

As a member of the Boulder community and the University of Colorado, I agree to:

  • Act with honor, integrity and accountability in my interactions with students, faculty, staff and neighbor
  • Respect the rights of others and accept our differences.
  • Contribute to the greater good of this community.

I will strive to uphold these principles in all aspects of my collegiate experience and beyond.

Go to Colorado Creed website

Conference on World AffairsConference on World Affairs

For 63 years, experts in every field imaginable have converged on campus for a week in April to discuss everything from cancer and the justice system to alien encounters and what makes a person attractive. The conference has attracted many notable people including Patch Adams, Eleanor Roosevelt, Molly Ivins, Arthur Miller, R. Buckminster Fuller, Steve Allen and Roger Ebert, to name a few.

See the schedule for the Conference on World Affairs

Colorado Shakespeare Festival

For more than five decades, summer evenings at the Mary Rippon Theatre have rung with laughter and lament as professional and amateur actors bewitch audiences. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is the second longest running Shakespeare festival in the country, and in 1975 it became the seventh theatre in the world to perform the entire Shakespeare canon.

Go to Colorado Shakespeare Festival website


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