The Symbols and Traditions of Marshall University

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Welcome to Marshall You might notice something about students and alumni at Marshall University. We’re a proud lot. (That goes for faculty and staff, too.) But we’ve got good reason. For starters, we are named for Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall. He’s the fellow known as the “Definer of the United States Constitution.” (Kind of important, right?) There’s our impressive list of academic options, including more than 120 degree programs. (That’s selection for you.) And then there’s the Thundering Herd. (Need we say more?) The Chief Justice himself would be proud. Because we’re rooted in West Virginia, we believe in the strength of community. (West Virginians pretty much invented the term “neighborly.”) Anyone who walks our halls becomes part of the Marshall family — the Sons and Daughters of Marshall. We make progress, and history, together. If you’re new to Marshall, you’ll discover that we’re one of the state’s oldest institutions of higher education. You’ll find history all around you, in the buildings and landmarks on campus, and in our rich traditions. It’s this proud history that inspires us to create, to innovate and to achieve our goals. And if you’re already part of the Marshall family, you’ll find this handy guide will give you a few new reasons to keep your head high. We Are… Marshall.

OLD MAIN “Old Main is Marshall University, and Marshall University is Old Main.� So says the 1973 application to grant Old Main a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Old Main has earned its name. The building we know today is actually made up of five structures, each built at a different time and in a different style between 1868 and 1907. Throughout its history, the heart of the university has existed on the very spot at which it began. Old Main is the site of the original Marshall Academy, and its Tudor Gothic tower and octagonal columns have come to symbolize the university. If you know Marshall, you know Old Main.

ORIGINAL MARSHALL COLLEGE ARCH The arched doorway on the north side of Old Main was once the official entrance to the building. The decorative wreath and scrollwork above the door were plastered over for more than a century before they were uncovered and carefully restored.

JOHN MARSHALL STATUE The eight-foot-tall bronze statue of John Marshall that stands between Drinko Library and the Memorial Student Center was designed by North Carolina sculptor William Behrends and completed in 1998. The engraving at its base reads “Revolutionary soldier. Definer of the Constitution. Devoted husband and father.” A class picture is taken around the statue every year just before Freshman Convocation. Convocation is also a time when we celebrate the diverse backgrounds of the Marshall family and how the university has changed the lives of its alumni.

THE JOHN MARSHALL FIFE AND DRUM CORPS The John Marshall Fife and Drum Corps is made up of students and teachers from Marshall’s School of Music. The group performs music from the era of Chief Justice Marshall (think “Yankee Doodle”), while wearing Revolutionary War–era uniforms and playing instruments of the period.

John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States If you’ve been paying attention, you know by now that John Marshall was a United States Supreme Court justice. In fact, he was the fourth chief justice, which means he was pretty much the boss. He served as head honcho for 34 years, from 1801 to 1835, making him the longest-serving chief justice to the court, even today. During his tenure, our friend John became known as the principal founder of the U.S. system of constitutional law. What does that mean? Chief Justice Marshall was the clever type, much like the students of Marshall University. Under his leadership, the Supreme Court became a third and equal branch of our government.

Early Life and Career

Virginia Ratifying Convention of 1788, a successful diplomatic envoy to France, a capable member of Congress and a distinguished secretary of state under President John Adams. And that was before he was named to the Supreme Court. In 1801, John was nominated and appointed to his big gig as chief justice. That’s a career to feel proud about.

In 1776, John joined the Continental Army as a lieutenant and served under George Washington for three years, including that rather unpleasant winter in Valley Forge you may have heard about. He became licensed to practice law in 1780 and established a law practice in Richmond, Virginia. He was a respected member of the General Assembly of Virginia, an outstanding delegate to the

As chief justice, John was known for his lucid and persuasive opinions, and his long tenure allowed for consistency in constitutional doctrine, as well as consensus and stability on the court. And though he was into his Madeira, we’ve heard he wasn’t big on luxuries. While everyone else was wearing scarlet and ermine, John was having none of it. He’s the guy who started the black robe trend among judges.

John Marshall was born in a log cabin near Germantown, Virginia, the eldest of 15 children. While that sounds like a modest start, his dad, Thomas, was a sheriff, a justice of the peace and a land surveyor. Not bad for the 1750s. John’s parents taught him what they knew, but in fact, he had very little formal education.

Marshall Academy

Two years after Marshall’s death in 1835, residents of Guyandottte (then situated in the state of Virginia) gathered at the home of local lawyer John Laidley to plan a school for the region. Together, they elected to name their institution in honor of Laidley’s friend, the late Chief Justice John Marshall. Thus began Marshall Academy.

Constitution Week

September 17 marks the date the U.S. Constitution was signed in 1787. In 2004, it officially became Constitution Day across the United States. But we took it a step further, cause that’s just us. Each September, we commemorate the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and John Marshall’s contributions to our nation’s legal system with Constitution Week. The week includes an essay competition, a quoits tournament (check the sidebar), lectures and a celebration of big John’s birthday.

THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF MARSHALL For generations, students and alumni have referred to themselves as the Sons and Daughters of Marshall. It’s a theme written into our alma mater and our fight song, and it’s an integral part of the Marshall experience. In one simple expression, it describes what it means to be a student, and then an alumnus, at Marshall — and how anyone who walks our halls becomes part of the Marshall family.

QUOITS AND MADEIRA You’ll find our quoits pits on Buskirk Field. But what in the world is quoits, you ask? It’s a lawn game, like horseshoes, in which rings of iron (quoits) are pitched at stakes (hobs). It was John Marshall’s favorite pastime, and believe it or not, there’s actually a United States Quoiting Association. The game, as Marshall played it, had some unusual guidelines, such as the rule that game play in robes or while brandishing a gavel are strictly prohibited. (Those judges.) And then there’s the one that states any tomfoolery that causes the spilling of Madeira will result in a one-point deduction. Speaking of Madeira, it just so happens that Marshall had a fondness for the fortified wine. As the story goes, when in Washington, Marshall enjoyed a digestif of Madeira with his Supreme Court colleagues. A prudent fellow, he included the caveat it could only be enjoyed if it was raining. After dinner, a page would be sent to check the weather. If the report came back of sunny skies, Marshall would proclaim their jurisdiction so vast, it must be raining somewhere. He would then uncork the wine and raise a toast to his fellow judges.

We Are Marshall On November 14, 1970, Marshall University and the community of Huntington experienced the greatest air tragedy in college sports history. On that day, 75 people — players, coaches, university staff, community members and the flight crew — perished. The team was returning home from a game against East Carolina University when its charter flight crashed into a hill near the Huntington Tri-State Airport.

Memorial Fountain

Each year on the anniversary of the plane crash, the Student Government Association conducts a service of remembrance at the Memorial Fountain. In recognition of those who lost their lives, a wreath is laid and the water to the fountain is turned off until the next spring. The service is a reminder of those we lost and of the strength and resilience of the Marshall family. The Memorial Fountain was erected in 1972 on the Memorial Student Center Plaza. At more than 13 feet high and 6,500 pounds, it was created by Harry Bertoia, an Italian-born artist and resident of Pennsylvania. It was his hope that the fountain would commemorate the living and endure as a symbol to “express upward growth, immortality and eternality.”

We Are... Marshall Memorial

A bronze bas relief sculpture in front of the Joan C. Edwards Stadium also honors the 75 members of the Marshall family who were lost that day. The “We Are... Marshall” Memorial Bronze was created by West Virginia sculptor Burl Jones and revealed in November 2000. The sculpture features a herd of buffalo charging forward; a rising sun, symbolic of a new beginning; smoke, a reminder of the crash; three football players emerging from the smoke and ash; and the reminder “We Are... Marshall.” An adjacent plaque lists the names of those who died.

In 2006, Warner Bros. and Thunder Road Pictures produced a feature film titled We Are Marshall about the crash and the school’s struggle to create a new football team. The film itself has become part of the Marshall story — and an American story of tragedy, hope and endurance.

THE MARSHALL UNIVERSITY SEAL The official Marshall University seal comes in two versions: English and Latin. The imposing Latin version is reserved for use by the president’s office, while the more modest English seal is used on everyday university materials and athletic swag. Both versions feature a fetching portrait of John Marshall and the date of the school’s founding.

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GREEN AND WHITE Kelly green and white are the official colors of Marshall University. Some might say green is the color of pride, perseverance and renewal, while white is the color of possibility, illumination and goodness. Bingo. That’s Marshall University. THE BAR M LOGO The singular M has symbolized Marshall University since its earliest years. The university’s primary logo is called the “Bar M” logo; it’s the one you’ll find throughout our community and communications.

The Chant

The “We Are... Marshall” chant has been around since the 1980s. The chant first rang out in the old Fairfield Stadium, where the scoreboard would indicate which side of the crowd should lead the cheer. Today, the “We Are... Marshall” chant and wordmark embody the enthusiasm, strength and resiliency of the Thundering Herd and the Marshall family.

Thunder Walk

The football team’s pregame “Thunder Walk” has become an annual tradition. Led by cheerleaders and the Marching Thunder band, team members and coaches walk together on their way to the locker room at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, while fans and tailgaters line the route to cheer them on.

PRESIDENT’S MEDALLION The bling you’ll see around the president’s neck during formal university ceremonies is, like a king’s ring, the president’s badge of office. The four-inch pendant looks much like the official Latin seal, with a relief carving of John Marshall at its center. THE GRAND MACE A symbol of authority and leadership, the Grand Mace is carried by the Chief Marshal of the faculty at all formal university occasions. Created in 1986 by Marshall graduate and renowned sculptor Byron Johnson, the mace was carved from a limb that fell from the Old Beech Tree that once stood in front of Old Main. The bronze casting and carvings feature symbols of significance in the history of the university, including the columns of Old Main, the university seal and the Memorial Fountain. Cue the pomp and circumstance!

The Thundering Herd Though the last of West Virginia’s wild American bison were seen around the time John Marshall was still chief justice, it wasn’t until 1925 that the “Thundering Herd” was first used to describe Marshall University’s athletic teams. Before the turn of the last century, Marshall athletes were known as the “Indians.” (Not so original.) Around 1910, the moniker “Big Green” took hold, in reference to the color of the team uniforms. (Not so creative.) Then in 1925, a Huntington Herald-Dispatch sportswriter referred to the team as the “Thundering Herd,” after a then-popular movie based on a novel of the same title. The nickname caught on quickly. But the new name had its detractors. Some folks thought it inappropriate, since bison were usually associated with the western plains, not West Virginia, and because it didn’t recognize the university’s namesake. For 40 years, there was no consensus, and alternatives were floated: Judges, Green Gobblers, Rams and Boogercats (don’t ask). It eventually came down to a vote. In January 1965, students officially chose “Thundering Herd” as the name for Marshall athletics, the bison as the mascot, and green and white as the school colors. The athletic fundraising organization adopted the ol’ “Big Green,” and the other names were thankfully left in the dust. (Aren’t you glad?!)


Marco Once the Thundering Herd nickname caught on, it was clear Marshall needed a mascot that could thunder to victory and successfully lead a herd. While the first costume appeared in the 1930s, and cartoon versions of the mascot were popularized in Huntington’s Herald-Advertiser, the Thundering Herd bison lay low for more than a decade. In 1954, the editors of the Marshall yearbook wanted a cartoon character they could use in the Chief Justice. Working with an artist, they created a new image of the mascot and dubbed him Marco — a mashup of the first letters of the words “Marshall” and “College.” But it was another 10 years before a physical manifestation of Marco was born. A local men’s fraternity and booster club, The Robe, purchased the first costume for $200 in 1965, and the mascot made his first official appearance at the Marshall vs. Bowling Green basketball game on March 6, 1965. The first live mascot, purchased from a farm in Indiana, took the stage during Homecoming in 1970. And while he was trained to walk around Fairfield Stadium for halftime performances, Marco’s wild nature prevailed. He was eventually retired to nearby Camden Park, where he stepped out only for home football games.



By 1973, Marco (the mascot, not the animal) had a new companion to keep him company when a female bison named Marsha appeared on the scene. Sadly, Marsha stayed only a few years, and it’s long been speculated she transferred to West Virginia University. Marco recovered from heartbreak with an image makeover. In 1984, his 20-year-old costume was replaced with a new one resembling a football uniform. Although swelteringly hot, the costume allowed Marco to perform with the cheerleading squad, and in 1990, he was a contender in the Universal Cheerleaders Association’s mascot competition. Marco underwent a nip and tuck in 2001, when he was given a more “determined” look, and again in 2008, when he was bulked up to promote a “healthier” image. But Marco’s new beefy figure didn’t play well to the crowds, and by 2013, students, alumni and Herd fans voted for a friendlier look. The fierce but friendly Marco we know today was first revealed during the Homecoming game on October 5, 2013, and he can be found rousing the crowd at athletic events, attending ceremonies and taking part in student events.

Northcott Hall Archway Northcott Hall was the second building constructed on the Marshall campus. Though the building was razed in 1996, the archway entrance was salvaged and repurposed as a window in the western wall of Drinko Library.

Marshall Serves The Marshall community gives back on Thundering Serve Day, with more than 70 projects throughout the Huntington area.

Marshall Artists Series The Marshall Artists Series is one of the nation’s leading college-town arts and entertainment series and the second oldest, dating back to 1936. Housed in the historic Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center in downtown Huntington, the series offers a full schedule of performances and films. Bonus: Students receive tickets to the Marshall Artists Series as part of their tuition and fees.

The President’s House The Campbell-Staats House on 13th Avenue in Huntington has been the home of Marshall’s presidents since 1971. Originally designed as a replica of Mount Vernon, George Washington’s vast estate on the Potomac River in Virginia, the home underwent significant renovations from 20152016. (It was time.) The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is available for use for university-sponsored functions. Afternoon tea, anyone?

A New Era for Marshall It’s easy to pass by statues and memorial plaques without stopping to discover what they’re all about. But the Marshall experience is even more meaningful when you understand the history around you, and the traditions that have come to define what it means to join the Marshall family. We looked to our rich history to create a new campaign for the university. It’s a campaign that respects our individuality and our unity; that honors our achievements and our challenges; that celebrates our future and our heritage as the Sons and Daughters of Marshall. The new campaign is rooted in the Marshall University Creed. It’s a creed that compels us, as members of the Marshall community, to strive to exemplify the core values of John Marshall’s character: independence, initiative, achievement, ethical integrity and commitment to community through association and service. That’s a lot to live up to, but we’ve seen how it’s done. It’s what makes us proud to say We Are... Marshall.

SONS OF MARSHALL FIGHT SONG The “Sons of Marshall” fight song was written in 1935 by alumnus Ralph A. Williams. You’ll hear it played when the Marching Thunder enters the Joan C. Edwards Stadium before a game. You can practically smell the pride.

We are the sons of Marshall Sons of the great John Marshall Year after year we go to Marshall U. Cheering for our team and gaining knowledge, too Proudly we wear our colors Love and loyalty to share Sure from far and near You’ll always hear The wearing of the green For it’s the Green and White of Marshall U.

Students and alumni of Marshall have referred to themselves as the “Sons and Daughters of Marshall” for generations. You’ll find the words in our alma mater, our fight song and in the university-wide campaign launched in 2016.

The Marshall Alma Mater Marshall, gracious Alma Mater, We thy name revere; May each noble son and daughter Cherish thine honor dear. May thy lamp be ever bright Guiding us to truth and light; As a beacon o’er dark water This is for thee our prayer. May the years be kind to Marshall; May she grow in fame; May her children fail her never True to her beacon flame. May her spirit brave and strong Honor right and conquer wrong; This the burden of our song Ever her truth proclaim. — Dr. C.E. Haworth and James R. Haworth, 1906

Marshall University Office of Recruitment One John Marshall Drive Huntington, WV 25755 1-877-GOHERD-1

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