The long and rich history of Lawrence University has supported a variety of traditions in student life and campus events. The following are a few of the longest-lived Lawrence traditions, customs, and symbols. [For a more detailed look, please see Time and Traditions, published during Lawrence's sesquicentennial year, 1996-97.]
Lawrence Coat of Arms
Lawrence University, with the permission of the family of its founder, Amos Lawrence, uses as its graphic symbol an adaptation of the arms "granted and confirmed by Patent dated 30 October 1562, to William Lawrence of St. Ives, county Huntington":
"A shield of silver bearing a cross of red with embattlements in which the angles are to right angles. In the upper third of the shield against a red background is a double-tailed lion in gold, walking with the dexter paw raised and the head full-faced. Above the shield is the crest, the head of an antelope in black with five silver roundles on the head and neck. The antlers are in gold, the crest supported by a red and silver roll."
The current Lawrence University logo has simplified the original shield to facilitate reproduction in several media and to incorporate the university colors of blue, white and black. In addition, the lion has been replaced to reinforce our founding year, 1847.
"Light! More Light!"
The Rev. William Harkness Sampson, co-founder and first principal of the college, was also the designer, in 1850, of the corporation seal for Lawrence University of Wisconsin. Still in use today on official university documents and in other formal contexts, Sampson's seal contains the English words "Light! More light!," followed by the Latin phrase Veritas est lux (Truth is light), a choice Sampson explained in this letter to the college's benefactor, Amos Lawrence:
"'Light! More light!' were the last words of Goethe, to which 'veritas est lux' is the response; the book is placed in a cloud representing the darkness of the human mind, from which the light emanates and disperses the darkness."
Light also plays a role in the symbolism of Milwaukee-Downer College, which joined with Lawrence College in 1964 to form Lawrence University. The Milwaukee-Downer corporate seal contains the Latin motto Sit Lux: Let there be light.
How We Became Vikings
Prior to the mid-1920s, Lawrence athletic teams were called the Blues or the Blue-Somethings (for example, the swimmers were the Bluefins.) In January 1926, the sports staff of the student newspaper, The Lawrentian, held a contest to pick a new mascot or team name, the winner to go to the Lawrence-Hilltop basketball game in Milwaukee. The winner was Steven Cincowsky '29, and the vote was Vikings 252, Blue Jays 56, Trojans 46.
The Viking name did not take a firm hold until 1929, when the Ariel yearbook took on a Viking theme.
The tradition of assigning a color – red, green, yellow, or purple – to each class at Lawrence has a long history. It began at Milwaukee-Downer College, the women’s college that consolidated with Lawrence in 1964. In the fall of 1914, Milwaukee-Downer held its first Colors Day, in which the incoming freshman class was formally presented with a banner in its designated color. The four colors had been chosen, according to a 1922 Milwaukee Journal article, to represent “the purple of the spring violets, the green of the first grass, the yellow of the July dandelions while the red comes from the hawthorne berries, the deep color of the ripened oak leaves and from the tint of the college buildings.” For the next 50 years, each Milwaukee-Downer student received a blazer and beanie in red, green, yellow, or purple. The colors provided a sense of class unity that was reinforced through competitive events like the annual regatta and Hat Hunt.
The tradition did not immediately carry over with the consolidation. But in 1988, it was reinstated for all incoming classes at Lawrence. Today, class colors serve as an important reminder of our Milwaukee-Downer heritage, as well as a way to identify with class compatriots.
The Lawrence Alma Mater ("Hail to Our Alma Mater") was presented to the college by Dean William E. Harper of the Conservatory of Music in 1908-09. The Alma Mater of Milwaukee-Downer College was introduced by its Class of 1908.
"Go, Lawrence, Go" was written in 1940 by renowned band leader Fred Waring. The custom it describes -- sending a burning raft down the Fox River -- was an annual Homecoming highlight until the mid-1950s.
"In the Quest for Understanding" was commissioned for the celebration of Lawrence's 150th anniversary in 1997. The text was written by the Rev. Carl P. Daw of the School of Theology at Boston University; the music is based on the traditional melody, "Thaxted," popularized in this century by Gustav Holst's orchestral suite, The Planets.
The Rock has been a Lawrence icon, above and below ground, for over 100 years. During a geology field trip to Mosquito Hill near New London, Wisconsin, in 1895, members of the senior class noticed a large boulder that they thought would make a fine souvenir of the occasion. Arranging to have it transported to Appleton by dray and railroad flatcar, they carved "Class of 1895" upon it and set it in front of Main Hall.
And there it stayed -- for awhile. Over the years, moving The Rock became a student pastime of ever-larger proportion. Automobile tow trucks would appear in the night, and by dawn The Rock, now painted quite regularly in every imaginable color and pattern, would have found a new spot. In 1957, it appeared perched precariously on the roof ledge of Stephenson, but that turned out to be an impostor Rock made of papier-mache.
It fell to the Class of 1967 to bring The Rock to its lowest level. Wearing sweatshirts that read "The Rock. We Saw. We Took. We Kept," Plantz Hall residents in 1964 buried the big boulder near their residence hall. And there it stayed -- for 19 years. On the occasion of their 15th reunion in 1983, members of the Class of '67 (wearing shirts that said "The Rock. We Saw. We Took. We Kept. We Returned.") hired a crane from the P. G. Miron Construction Company to raise The Rock back to ground level.
After resurfacing, The Rock went missing again in 1998. It returned to campus in the spring of 2018. For more information, check out the podcast "No Stone Unturned" by Sarah Axtell '17 and Jon Hanrahan '16, completed in the spring of 2016.