History and traditions

A tradition of breaking with tradition

Since 1890, UChicago has followed a distinctively different path. Our founders defined what they believed would build an enduring legacy: a commitment to rigorous academics for people of all backgrounds.

Unbound by convention

Since its inception, the University has blurred the lines between traditional disciplines. Students, faculty, and scholars collaborate across fields to solve complex questions and uncover new knowledge.

Distinctive Core curriculum

Through sequences in the humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences, as well as the historical development of civilizations, our students engage with the language, questions, and methods that characterize broad fields of inquiry.

The University of Chicago, from its very inception, has been driven by a singular focus on inquiry.

—Robert J. Zimmer, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Chicago

In a 1902 lecture, founding president William Rainey Harper reminded his audience that “complete freedom of speech on all subjects has from the beginning been regarded as fundamental.”

The 217-acre Hyde Park campus is a designated botanic garden.
Trees and flowers on campus

Often described as an oasis in the city of Chicago, the original campus was designed as an interconnected academic village linked by quadrangles.

The core campus was modeled after the English Gothic architectural style used at Oxford, complete with towers, spires, cloisters, elaborate ironwork, and grotesques.

Physicist Albert A. Michelson became the first American and first UChicago scholar to win a Nobel Prize in the sciences in 1907.



Our motto

The University’s coat of arms bears a phoenix emerging from flames and the Latin motto: Crescat scientia; vita excolatur, or “Let knowledge grow from more to more; and so be human life enriched.”
Maroons Cheer

The Maroons

In 1894, maroon became the University’s official color and “the Maroons” its nickname.
Phoenix Mascot

The phoenix

The phoenix, a mythical bird that is reborn from its ashes, is our official mascot and was incorporated into the University seal in 1910. The choice of the phoenix refers to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the subsequent "rebirth" of the city out of the ashes.


Over history, the University has developed time-honored traditions and customs that are unique to UChicago.

Aims Lear

Aims of Education Address



Harper Lecture

Harper Lectures


Latke-Hamantash Debate

Ryerson Lecture

Ryerson Lecture

Scav Hunt

Scav Hunt