Celebration, Commemoration, and Campus Traditions


From welcoming incoming students to rubbing the Remsen plaque for good luck before chemistry exams, Hopkins has its fair share of traditions. These are the ways we honor the university’s history, welcome our new classmates, bid adieu to graduates, and celebrate the Hopkins community at large:

First Night. This annual Orientation event showcases the university’s a cappella, dance, and theater groups. First Night serves as an induction ceremony hosted by upperclassmen to welcome freshmen as the newest members of the Homewood community.

Convocation. Hopkins officially inducts the incoming class into the Homewood community with this traditional ceremony, marking the end of Orientation and the beginning of the Blue Jay experience. This year, President Daniels spoke about the exciting experiences that await our eager undergrads, followed by an opportunity to meet professors, the deans, and other members of the faculty.

University Seal: Campus lore dictates that the university seal located in the foyer of Gilman Hall holds the fate of those who dare step on it. As the legend goes, students who step on the seal will not graduate, prospective applicants who step on the seal will not be admitted, and professors who step on the seal will not be granted tenure. Over the years, stepping on the seal AFTER graduation has become a celebratory finale to the undergraduate experience.

President’s Day of Service. Every year, students, faculty, and staff, (including the University’s president!) take part in a day of university-wide community service across Baltimore. Projects range from constructing homes and planting gardens to distributing food and volunteering to work with elementary school students. The President’s Day of Service is the ideal opportunity to give back to what will be your community for the next four years.

Hoptoberfest. Held every October, Hoptoberfest is a celebration of the Homewood community. Students, faculty, and staff gather for a weekend of traditional fall activities, including pumpkin painting, pie-eating contests, a free outdoor screening of Halloween movies, a haunted house, and a game of laser tag.

Lighting of the Quads. This event kicks off the holiday season at Homewood as President Daniels flicks the switch to light up the quads in early December. Gingerbread house competitions, performances, and hot chocolate make this a memorable annual tradition. In conjunction with the festivities on campus, just a few blocks away is Miracle on 34th Street, an incredibly decorated row of homes lit up in spirit of the holiday season!

Watch this student-produced video. Warning: It will put you make you want to drink hot chocolate and sing carols.

Commemoration Day.Held annually on February 22 to celebrate the university’s founding (and the installation of President Daniel Coit Gilman in 1876), Commemoration Day is a time when students gather in the Glass Pavilion to eat and mingle with the president, deans, the faculty, and peers.

Symposium Series. The Milton S. Eisenhower and Foreign Affairs Symposiums are student-run events occurring in the fall and spring, respectively, bringing speakers to campus once a week. Each event is free and open to the public, hosting speakers that range from political figures to actors and comedians. We’ve also heard from Bill Nye the Science Guy and Jerry from Ben & Jerry’s, who brought free ice cream for everyone in the audience!

Flamingos. Each year hundreds of pink (plastic) flamingos mysteriously appear on Keyser Quad. No one is exactly sure why. Read more on The Hub.

Homecoming. Homecoming weekend at Hopkins happens in the spring, during our ever-popular lacrosse season. Each year, alumni return to campus to relive the glory days. Game-day tickets are free for students and tailgates are hosted on the freshman quad.

Spring Fair. Perhaps the most widely-loved Hopkins tradition, Spring Fair is a student-run event hosted on the Homewood campus. The fair brings together members of the Hopkins community and Baltimore neighborhood for full of food, drinks, carnival rides, live concerts, shopping, art, and more.

Check out our student-produced Spring Fair 2015 video.

Senior Week. Taking place in the week after finals and before graduation, the Senior Class Council plans a “reverse orientation” to celebrate the end of their four years at Hopkins. Some events include the Preakness Stakes, a barbeque on the quad, an ice cream social, an overnight trip to Atlantic City, a cocktail party in the library, and Senior Prom. Bringing the Hopkins experience full-circle, this week is a mix of bittersweet emotions for the soon-to-be graduates.