Legends & Traditions

Unlock our secret history. And uphold some curious traditions.


Boar’s Head

Every December, the entire Oglethorpe community comes together for this holiday celebration and induction of new members into Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), a national leadership honor society. The ceremony begins with a procession of ODK members in academic regalia, carrying a board’s head on a litter. The procession is followed by a theatrical reading of the Boar’s Head story. Then, there’s a holiday concert featuring the University Singers and other Oglethorpe performing arts groups, the lighting of the holiday tree, and a reception in the Turner Lynch Campus Center. The event is inspired by the armorial crest of General James Edward Oglethorpe, which depicts four boar heads and the holiday tradition of the same name held at Oxford University.


Buried Elephant

In November 1941, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus were performing in Atlanta, when eighteen circus elephants were poisoned by arsenic. An enterprising professor in the Oglethorpe medical school had one of the elephants brought to campus and deposited behind Lowry Hall (now Welter Library) for use in his comparative anatomy class. When the animal began to decay, a hole was dug next to the body, and the elephant was rolled into it and buried. The exact whereabouts of its remains are unknown.


Carillon Ceremony

In 2005, a new tradition was started at Oglethorpe: the Carillon Ceremony, where graduating seniors get the opportunity to enter a “secret door” in Lupton Hall and climb up to the Lupton Bell Tower. Facilitated by the Alumni Board, seniors may sign a historical carillon registry book and ring one of the bells by hand. The OU 42-bell carillon was the first cast bronze bell carillon in Georgia. The carillon has played for a variety of Oglethorpe University and community events including the Senior Capping ceremony, Boar’s Head, Oglethorpe Day, Commencement, recitals, weddings, funerals and national events. Learn more about the Carillon Ceremony.


Crypt of Civilization Time Capsule

Situated behind a stainless steel door in the lower level of Hearst Hall, the Crypt was identified by the Guinness Book of World Records as “the first successful attempt to bury a record of this culture for any future inhabitants….” Sealed in 1940 by Dr. Thornwell Jacobs, the Crypt is not to be opened until 8113 AD. It contains an encyclopedic inventory intended to be a “museum” of representative culture from the times of the Egyptians through the mid-twentieth century. The first item to be seen upon the opening of the Crypt is the “language integrator,” designed to teach twentieth-century English to the generations of 8113.

A student explains their research during the poster session for LASS 2023.

Liberal Arts & Sciences Symposium

This annual event brings together students and faculty members in a daylong celebration of exemplary analytic and creative work by Oglethorpe students. On the day of the event, classes are canceled so that all students can attend the symposium. The program typically includes student-led sessions, panels, roundtables, poster presentations, art exhibitions and performances. Learn more about the symposium.

Night of the Arts

Every October, our creative students, staff and faculty take to the stage to perform. The evening is sponsored by The Tower, Oglethorpe’s literary magazine. There are poetry and fiction readings, music and dance performances, and art exhibits.

Class presidents hold their graduating year flags with student body president Ashrakat Hasan.


Oglethorpe Day

The second Wednesday in February is a festive occasion honoring our university’s namesake, General Oglethorpe. It’s a way to celebrate our rich history and unique traditions. The day kicks off with the Petrels of Fire Race; then a bagpipe player leads the audience from the quad to the Conant Performing Arts Center to hear from guest speakers. There’s also a reception on the Conant veranda. Learn more about Oglethorpe Day.

Oglethorpe Day 2023 runners race around the quad while spectator cheer.


Petrels of Fire

Based on the Cambridge University tradition portrayed in the movie Chariots of Fire, the Petrels of Fire footrace takes place annually on Oglethorpe Day. Runners compete to circumnavigate the quad in the time between the bell tower’s first and final strokes of twelve. Learn more about the Petrels of Fire.

Quad Fest

QuadFest & Stomp the Lawn

Held respectively in September and April, these events celebrate the beginning and ending of the school year. Both feature a live band, games, carnival rides, food and fun! Sponsored by the SGA Programming Board.

Battle of the Bloody MarshBattle of Bloody Marsh

Every fall, a team of students and a team of faculty and staff members meet to do battle… via tug-of-war. The name comes from the famous 1742 battle in which General Oglethorpe’s forces defeated the Spanish troops in South Georgia. Organized by the SGA Programming Board. Watch a historical video about the original battle.