Traditional Symbols and Sayings

Under the Oaks

In 1888 a forest of more than 33 kinds of trees was chosen as the location for a new college. The clearing of land began with the help of the surrounding community and under the supervision of Will Long, son of the first president. The following year the trustees named the new college “Elon” which is the Hebrew word for “oak,” perhaps influenced by the fact that after the site had been cleared most of the trees left standing were majestic oaks.

Near that original grove of oaks, a fire in January 1923 destroyed the main building on campus that housed the auditorium, library and nearly all the college’s classrooms and offices. That May, commencement exercises were held in that spot (“Under the Oaks”) silhouetted by the construction of five new buildings (Whitley, Carlton, Alamance, Duke and Mooney) that were rising on the site of “Old Main.” Commencement exercises were again held Under the Oaks in 1987 when Alumni Gym could no longer hold the growing number of graduates and guests.

While many of the original oaks have succumbed to the ravages of time, lightning and wind damage, young oaks have replaced them. It is this renewed growth, supplementing the old, that shelters Elon and is a symbol that unites the past with the promise of the future.

Acorn and Oak

The tradition began in 1991 when Furman Moseley spoke to the graduating class.  Moseley, a 1956 graduate of Elon College, incorporated his career in the timber business by giving each alum a redwood sapling.

Dr. J. Fred Young, president of Elon from 1973 to 1998, decided to make the gifting of saplings a permanent tradition in 1992, but opted to give an oak sapling in accordance with the meaning of the school’s name.

When Dr. Leo Lambert became president in 1999, he built upon the tradition by also giving each new student an acorn to symbolize the beginning of their college careers.  Upon graduation, each graduate is still given an oak sapling to celebrate the growth they have experienced throughout their time at Elon as well as the growth they’ll encounter as lifelong learners.

The Bell from Old Main

Currently on display in the rotunda of the Alamance Building, the bell from “Old Main” is one of the most prominent artifacts from the earliest days of Elon College. It was a beacon for students, signaling the start of classes and chapel until it was damaged in the 1923 fire that destroyed the main administration building where it was housed. Deformed and disfigured, but still intact, the bell serves as an important symbol of the resilience and determination that is ingrained in the spirit of Elon.

“Long Live Elon!”

Thad Eure was elected secretary of state in 1936 and served under 13 North Carolina governors.  He was a champion of common citizens and children, and insisted that the door to his office never be closed to the public.  Eure had extensive family ties to Elon and joined the board of Trustees in 1942.  He had a booming voice and gave powerful speeches on campus, ending with the pronouncement, “Long Live Elon!”

College Coffee

College Coffee is another longstanding tradition.  This weekly community event brings Elon faculty, staff, and students together for fellowship.  College Coffee offers conversation in a relaxed atmosphere while providing a morning snack. This event is every Tuesday from 9:40-10:20am on Phi Beta Kappa Commons in the Academic Village.  (In 2020-2021, when the level of COVID-19 is low enough that we are able to hold College Coffee, we are meeting at Fonville Fountain, Under the Oaks, and Chandler Fountain.  Even during a pandemic, we value the sense of community fostered through this Elon tradition.)

Numen Lumen

Numen Lumen is among the oldest of Elon student traditions, serving as a weekly reminder that the purpose of an Elon education is to see each student as a whole person, whose mind, body, and spirit deserves respect.  It is a time and space to take a break from the busyness of the week and refresh the spirit.  It is not a “worship service,” but a time of reflection with a musical or artistic performance provided by students, faculty, staff, or special guests.  Numen Lumen is held each Thursday from 9:50-10:20 a.m. in the Numen Lumen Pavilion, and is open to the entire Elon Community.  (During the pandemic we are not able to gather in person, but you are invited to watch recorded and past reflections by visiting this YouTube channel.)

Honor Code

Every member of Elon University has the right to live and learn in an atmosphere of trust and support.  Responsibility for maintaining these values in our community rests with each member.  Values that promote this atmosphere include:

HONESTY:  Be truthful in your academic work and in your relationships.
INTEGRITY:  Be trustworthy, fair, and ethical.
RESPONSIBILITY:  Be accountable for your actions and your learning.
RESPECT:  Be civil.  Value the dignity of each person.  Honor the physical and intellectual property of others.

Go Phoenix!

The Phoenix became Elon’s mascot in 2000.  It symbolizes Elon’s triumphant recover from the 1923 fire and our fighting spirit.  Like the legendary Phoenix, which rises from its own ashes with new life and vigor, Elon was shaped by the fire, emerging as a stronger institution.  It is a symbol of light, knowledge, and everlasting vigor; it’s a powerful being and an emblem of hope.

Fight Song

The Elon fight song is played at all Elon sporting events. At football games, the song is played by the Fire of the Carolinas, Elon’s marching band. At basketball games, the song is played by the university Pep Band. The fight song is played to the tune of F.E. Bigelow’s march, “Our Director.” The lyrics were written by Elon student and band director Mark Z. Rhodes ’23 in 1921.

So here’s to dear old Elon
Faithful and bold.
Here’s to her banner
Of maroon and gold.
And here’s to men and women,
Who’ve come and gone,
Singing the victor’s song of old Elon.

Rally Towels

Dr. J. Earl Danieley served as president from 1957 to 1973, then as a professor in the chemistry department for many years after, and retiring in spring 2016.  His Elon pride was a part of his personality every day, but his passion for Elon athletics was unmatched.  For over 75 years, Dr. Danieley was one of Elon basketball’s most dedicated fans. In 2008, after being voted into the Elon Athletics Hall of Fame, at the under-8 minute media timeout the student section started chanting “Doc-tor Dan-ieley.”  In response, Danieley stood up and waved.  At the next game, the students chanted again, and this time Dr. D stook up and waived a small white towel at the crowd.  A new tradition had begun.

Although Dr. Danieley passed away during the 2016 basketball season, we continue to waive white rally towels at many of our athletic competitions and celebrate his legacy.  (At the 5 minute mark, listen to Dr. D share this story:

The Alma Mater

Singing the Alma Mater is an important Elon University tradition.  Since it was written in 1998, Elon students and alumni have sung these lyrics at formal ceremonies, athletic contests, and major events.  Latin for “fostering mother,” singing the Alma Mater serves as a unifying experience to express affection for Elon and remind us of the many things that make Elon University a special place.

President Fred Young chose the tune, a 1267 medieval hymn titled “Gaudeamus Igitur” and popular academic song in many European countries, which he discovered while on a trip abroad.  David Bragg, a member of Elon’s music faculty, tapped his neighbor to write the lyrics.  Mr. William D. Ellis was a poet, retired school teacher, and father of an Elon alumna. The Alma Mater harkens back to the strengths of this educational community as it celebrates our foundation as a co-educational institution, our location among the oak trees on an elevated portion of land under beautiful blue skies, and our calling to strive for a better or nobler future.

Want to hear it sung by some amazing folks at Elon?  Check out this recording made for Elon Day in 2017!

Sons of Elon, daughters too,1
Bring their praise and homage true.
In thy keeping there will be
Words and deeds to honor thee.
Harken to the song they’re singing,
And the loyalty they’re bringing.
Alma Mater, they will cherish thee;
Alma Mater, they will cherish thee.

Proud, the oak trees on thy hill2
Offer shade and shadow still.
Green the fields around thee lie;
Blue the Carolina sky.
Stately rise the hall of learning,
Toward their portals we are turning.
Alma Mater, we will cherish thee;
Alma Mater, we will cherish thee.

Elon, ever lead us on
To a bright and happy dawn;
Teach us still to love and pray,3
Guide us to a nobler day.
Joyous music lies before us,
Memories to swell the chorus.
Alma Mater, we will cherish thee;
Alma Mater, we will cherish thee.

1 “Sons of Elon, daughters, too,” – unlike most institutions in 1889, the first line of our Alma Mater celebrates the fact that Elon has always been co-educational.

2 “Proud, the oak trees on thy hill” – Although it may be difficult to see given the physical growth of campus, Elon’s campus is built on a hill with the highest point near the Moseley Center.

3 “Teach us still to love and pray” – Elon University was originally founded with the United Church of Christ.  Although that relationship is now less formal, our historical ties are evident in our commitment to embracing all members of the Elon community and supporting the development of students’ mind, body, and spirit.


Call to Honor

This event occurs each fall for new students to learn about and celebrate the tenets of the Elon Honor Code.  They hear from current student leaders, faculty, staff, and alumni about our core values of honesty, integrity, responsibility, and respect.  Students share in reciting the pledge and signing the Honor Code.  These signatures are then displayed around campus.

Family Weekend

This weekend in the early fall is for families and friends to return to campus, visit with you, talk with faculty, experience a class, tailgate, attend a football game, and participate in numerous other activities.  Your friends and family are a part of the Elon Family and we hope they be able to join us!


Homecoming isn’t just for alumni!  Mark your calendar and experience a fall tradition that grows bigger every year.  Typically held in late October or early November (depending on our football schedule), you won’t want to miss the many activities that celebrate friendship and community.

NPHC Step Show

Typically hosted during Homecoming, the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) sponsors an annual step show. Stepping has roots in African traditions and has long been a part of these historically black Greek-lettered organizations. It provides an expressive and cultural outlet, inviting members of Elon and neighboring chapters to compete in energetic performances for alumni and the current Elon community.

Festival of Holiday Lights

The Elon community gathers each year to stroll through more than 2,000 luminaries around the center of campus, hear Christmas carols and other seasonal songs, light the Menorah in celebration of Hanukkah, and countdown the lighting of the campus – buildings and trees lit with more than 50,000 holiday lights.  You won’t want to miss this joyous celebration.  This event typically occurs the first Thursday evening in December.

Holidays at Maynard House

Each fall semester before exams begin, the Lamberts invite the entire student body and professors to Maynard House for an evening of camaraderie in the spirit of the holiday season. But the event’s origins took place long before Lambert came to Elon in 1999.

Started the event in the late 1980s by former Elon President Fred Young, each fall semester before exams begin, the President invites the entire student body to their home, the Maynard House.  Through the years, the reception has evolved, and now students have the opportunity to have their picture taken with Dr. Book – often in holiday themed attire or with playful props.

Cram Jam

Late-night pancakes, bacon, eggs, and potatoes are served to you during finals week by professors and staff who (might) feel a little bit guilty for assigning you that cumulative final exam.  Sponsored by the Student Union Board (SUB) and the Inter-Residence Council (IRC), come with friends to the Lakeside Dining Hall to fuel up, take a few moments to relax, and then jump back into studying for your exams.

Turning 21 Dinners

Since the spring of 1998, Elon has celebrated the 21st birthday of thousands of Elon students. This quarterly program brings together students and their campus mentors – someone who has played a special role in the student’s Elon experience – at a commemorative dinner.  It is an opportunity to focus on this special birthday transition, full adulthood, and move with greater confidence into the future.  After a keynote speaker, offering inspiration and sharing wisdom from their life experiences, each evening ends with a toast: “The best is yet to be!”

Faculty and staff members serve as keynote speakers, offering inspiration and sharing the wisdom of their life experiences. Each program ends with the toast: “The best is yet to be!”

Burst the Bubble

Burst the Bubble programs are free, student-led, non-credit sessions during Winter term where students who have a talent, interest, or skill share their knowledge with their peers. Typically a Burst the Bubble program meets three times – once a week – for an hour each time.  There isn’t any homework, tests, outside assignments or grades.  There is a ton of fun learning (or even lead!) how to knit, play a guitar, play Dungeons and Dragons, swing dance, paint, do a standup routine, or cook authentic Greek cuisine.

Elon Day

Each spring, Elon Day is a 24-hour celebration of maroon and gold and pride in the university.  On-campus events include a special College Coffee and an evening party typically in the Moseley Center.  Alumni chapters hold Elon Day parties in more than 35 locations across the country and in London.  All members of the community can use #ElonDay on social media to share and follow the celebration.  This exciting day is typically scheduled in early March.


Holi, the Hindu Festival of Color, marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.  Officially observed in early March on the day following the full moon, colored powder is thrown to celebrate the earth returning to color and good triumphing over evil.  It is a celebration that glorifies abundant harvest and the fertility of the land.

At Elon, we tend to celebrate Holi in April, when the weather is a little warmer, with a traditional powdered paint-throwing extravaganza at the Speaker’s Corner on Young Commons in front of the Moseley Center.

Senior Week

Just because your last classes at Elon are over, doesn’t mean the traditions are!  In the week between your last exam and Commencement, we plan a number of events for you to connect with those faculty, staff members, and fellow seniors who’ve been an important part of your time at Elon.  Enjoy a picnic “under the oaks,” have your picture taken in the Alamance fountain, get dressed up for a senior gala, and much more.  Get ready – your sapling is next!