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Johns Hopkins Traditions

Johns Hopkins has a long history of traditions – some are over 100 years old, and some are brand new.  So if you’re looking for a way to celebrate your Blue Jay pride, look no further than this page and be sure to check out Hopkins Retrospective for more history.  Want to add a tradition?  Email us

Why the "S"?
Even Mark Twain Gave Us a Shout Out
School Colors
Lacrosse Traditions
Blue Jay Mascot
JHU Fight Song
Hopkins Songs/Chants
JHU Athletic Support Groups
Class Banners
University Seal

"Veritas vos liberabit", which translates to "The truth shall make you free."

Why the 'S'?

It has to do with Mr. Hopkins great-grandmother. Read the full story here.

Even Mark Twain Gave Us a Shout Out in 1888 When He Wrote to a Friend:

"A few months ago I was told that the Johns Hopkins University had given me a degree. I naturally supposed this constituted me a Member of the Faculty, and so I started in to help as I could there. I told them I believed they were perfectly competent to run a college as far as the higher branches of education are concerned, but what they needed was a little help here and there from a practical commercial man. I said the public is sensitive to little things, and they wouldn't have full confidence in a college that didn't know how to spell the name 'John.'" 

Read the rest of former President Brody’s speech here.

School Colors:

The official school colors of Johns Hopkins University are sable and gold; however, the school and the student body have adopted the school's athletic colors of light blue and black as their own. Jim Stimpert, resident historian at the MSE Library Archives, found a story about one of the first meetings between Johns Hopkins and Princeton on the lacrosse field.  Apparently, the referee could not distinguish between JHU’s sable and gold and Princeton’s orange and black.  From that day on, Hopkins adopted a blue and black athletic uniform, which has served them well since 1890. See our full record here.

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And Speaking of Lacrosse…  WE ARE REALLY GOOD! 

We’ve won 47 national titles with more on the way. For more lacrosse traditions, click here.

Why do they tie gold stars to the lacrosse net?

The tradition of tying the gold stars to the lacrosse net comes from the 1919 season. This is found in Bob and Robert Scott's book Lacrosse: Technique and Tradition: "At the opening game of that season, Father Bill Schmeisser presented captain Herb Baxley with a gold-star flag commemorating three former Hopkins lacrosse players who had lost their lives in World War I: Theodore Prince, Warren B. Hunting, and the captain's brother, W. Brown Baxley. The flag was fastened to the goal net before the game. To this day flags commemorating Hopkins lacrosse players who died in both world wars and in Vietnam are hung on the Homewood Field nets at the beginning of each season and remain there for all home games."

Blue Jay Mascot

The JHU Mascot has a long tradition dating back to the 1920s and was finally named "Jay" by the students in November 2013. The naming of the Blue Jay was met with some confusion from alumni, who had long thought the mascot was named "Hoppy."

At first, the Johns Hopkins athletic teams were simply called "the Black and Blue,"  based on the university's athletic colors. Then, in 1920, some undergraduates launched a student humor magazine called The Black and Blue Jay. The "black and blue" came from the colors, of course, and the "Jay" most likely came from the "J" in Johns Hopkins. The student humor magazine became popular and began being quoted nationally in such publications as College Humor and The Literary Digest. In the spring of 1922, the News-Letter occasionally began to refer to Johns Hopkins athletes as "Blue Jays," most likely because some of the editors of The Black and Blue Jay and the News-Letter worked on both publications. The nickname didn't become the standard reference for several years. Both the News-Letter and other newspapers — such as The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post still referred to Johns Hopkins athletes as "the Black and Blue" well into the 1920s. Sometimes, they also referred to Johns Hopkins players as the Blue Jays — and eventually, the Blue Jays became the favored name. Source

Fight Song Played After Every JHU Lacrosse Goal:

"To Win" (est. 1922, updated in 2013)
To win, to win
You'd like like hell to win.
But you'll have to wait till our team is through
Cause we'll beat you 'til you're black and blue.
High low, high lee
It's plain enough to see
If anyone's going to win today
It's We! We! We!

Hopkins Songs/Chants Background

JHU’s history is full of many traditional school songs and chants (some preserved better than others). Five are featured in instrumental form on the JHU site, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. The JHU Pep Band plays the following songs during each lacrosse game:

  • Johnny Hopkins On to Victory-at the Huddle
  • To Win-After a goal, followed by 'We Want More!'
  • Johnny B. Goode- First timeout
  • Black and Blue-Half time
  • Johnny Hopkins On to Victory-End of every game
  • March JHU-End of a home game when we win.
  • JHU Lacrosse Two-Step

Interestingly, The New York Times referred to “To Win” as “hard to beat” for “pure and simple boosterism.”

Fun Fact: The Hullabaloo Chant— It’s one of the most famous cheers in College Football-Texas A&M’s Hullabaloo Chant! Texas A&M claims to have written it in 1918, but an 1889 national compilation of renowned College Cheers at the time attributes it to the students of JHU.

While the music of JHU was expanded upon above, it is worth noting the tradition of the JHU Band in a separate post with much of its lore due to the late, great Conrad "Gebby" Gebelein (who wrote many of the JHU songs and instituted such traditions as playing "Ach du Lieber, Augustine" when the Jays reach 20 goals in a game).

In addition to the many JHU songs in the band's repertoire, it has long been a tradition to play "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry at one of the first time-outs. In the late Jim Valvano's autobiography, he noted that during the year he coached at Hopkins (1969-70) he had the event staff play "At The Hop" by Danny and The Juniors to ignite the fans.

For the full Old Hopkins Song book, click here.

Supporter Groups: JHU Band, JHU Cheerleaders, The Nest, Hopkins Hooligans, The Goldfarb Gang, & The Bananas

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  • The JHU Pep Band: “Forcing Merriment and MAYHEM since 1921!"
  • JHU Cheerleaders
  • The Nest Student Section (Est. 2005): Lacrosse
  • Hopkins Hooligans: Soccer, Football, and Lacrosse
  • The Goldfarb Gang: Volleyball and Basketball

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According to this blog post, “Easy to spot by the bright yellow T-shirts they wear and the fruit they wave, the "Blue Jay Bananas" sit right next to the Hopkins Band for all home games and many away games as well.

"Five of us fell into this tradition purely by accident in 1981," explains founding member Chris Tsien '74. "Hopkins was playing Harvard at Manhassett High in Long Island and we had taken the band bus to the game. It was nasty weather, cold, rainy, and one of our members, Diane Reese, had brought along a bagful of bananas. We destroyed Harvard that day, and so, like Red Auerbach with his victory cigar, we pulled out the bananas during the fourth quarter and waved them around."

The question as to when to start waving the fruit is not taken lightly by this vociferous group of fans. "The bananas come out with what we consider to be the winning goal, the 'they can't catch us now' goal," says Tsien.

At the end of the game, Tsien and his fellow Bananas toss a single banana down to the player who, in their judgment, has put in the best performance.

Though the group has numbered as many as 20 some seasons, their core consists of eight loyal Blue Jays fans: Tsien and his wife Susan Tucker, Holly Phelps and her husband Joel Gardner, David Cohen, Dick Wallace, Lee Shang, and Colin Flynn.

Class Banners

Since at least 1881, classes at JHU have designed a distinctive banner their graduation year.  Want to see a few?  Click here.

Want to Know More?

Check out the video of Professor Leslie’s lecture on the history of Homewood at Reunion 2014 and don’t forget to raise a glass to JHU on February 22nd every year.

Also be sure NOT to step on the seal…

The Hopkins Seal — Don’t step on the Johns Hopkins seal on the floor of Gilman Hall. Legend has it that undergraduates will not graduate, professors won’t receive tenure, and prospective students will not be admitted if they do. Test the legend at your own risk.

Read more fun facts about Hopkins Traditions.