TU Traditions

The history of TU

The University of Tulsa has its roots in the Presbyterian School for Native American girls, a small boarding school in Muskogee, American Indian Territory, which was founded in 1882. In 1894, at the request of the Synod of Indian Territory, the Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church elevated the academy’s status and chartered it as Henry Kendall College, a name that honored the first general secretary of the Home Missions Board. The first classes in the new college were held on September 12, 1894.

In the years following, financial difficulties prompted school officials to ask the Synod of American Indian Territory to assume control, sell the school’s land and seek a new location. Successfully courted by the business and professional community of Tulsa, which was booming after the discovery of oil at Glenpool, Henry Kendall College moved to Tulsa in 1907, the year of Oklahoma’s statehood. Several years later, a new college, to be named after oilman Robert M. McFarlin, was proposed for the city. Aware that Tulsa was not large enough to support two competing colleges, the Henry Kendall College trustees proposed that the contemplated McFarlin College and Kendall College affiliate under the common name “The University of Tulsa.” A charter for the university was approved on November 9, 1920. By 1928, the articles of incorporation had been amended to create the modern structure as an independent school corporation governed by a self-perpetuating board of trustees.

Today, TU operates as an independent, nondenominational university. A top-rated research institution, the university welcomes students from many different faiths and countries. The TU campus fosters a rich, diverse experience for students and faculty regardless of religious or cultural background through a strong belief in mutual respect and understanding.

McFarlin Library

At the heart of every great academic institution stands its library, and at The University of Tulsa’s iconic McFarlin Library is no exception. As the TU’s Grand Dame since 1929, McFarlin has been the physical and academic center of our beautiful campus. In its 80-year history, McFarlin has bolstered the research of thousands of scholars, informed countless research papers and acquired more than 170,000 rare books, manuscripts and other materials that are held in the university’s special collections. McFarlin stands (left) decorated for the holiday in 1962. Spring azaleas gleam in front of the library (right) in 2019.

Kendall Bell

Many alumni may remember the Kendall Bell on top of the old Kendall Hall (left) or in front of the Shaw Alumni Center (right). Today, the bell is proudly featured at Bayless Plaza (center) where it permanently lives in all its glory.


Commencement is a tradition in which the university president grants degrees to graduating students from all schools, colleges and affiliated institutions. During the graduation ceremony, other outstanding members of the TU community are recognized through the conferring of awards and honorary degrees.

Homecoming Bonfire and Pep Rally

TU Homecoming excitement begins with the annual Pep Rally and Bonfire. The TU band, Sound of the Golden Hurricane, plays and the spirit squad rallies the crowd into a cyclone of support for the big game. Honorees light the bonfire and the evening concludes with a grand fireworks display in TU blue, gold and red.

The ringing of the bell

The ringing of Kendall Bell is one of the oldest traditions at TU, dating back more than half a century. Graduating seniors celebrate their entry into the Alumni Association by ringing the cupola bell after completing the last final exam of their TU careers.

Street painting

A longtime favorite Homecoming tradition at TU is street painting. Campus organizations paint along Case Athletic Complex on East Eighth Street to showcase school spirit through a homecoming theme.


Holi, an Indian festival of colors, gives students the opportunity to celebrate the end of winter in India and welcome the spring season with Indian food, music, dance, kites and colors.


Every year, TU students await one of the largest events on campus, Springfest. The campus-wide celebration generally takes place in the weeks between spring break and finals. The week has a different theme each year and features a concert, free food and tons of fun activities. One year, Imagine Dragons played a sold-out show. Panic! At the Disco, Misterwives and Ben Rector have also taken the stage on campus.

Day of Service

TU Day of Service is a nationwide day of alumni and students volunteering to celebrate the university’s spirit and service in the community. University of Tulsa Alumni Association chapters and clubs partner each year with a philanthropic organization in their community for a day of volunteering.