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Welcome hOUme: A look at Ohio University traditions

“The Ohio University” was founded in 1804, just a year after Ohio became a state. Around 219 years later, OU is known for many things including a beautiful campus, a roaring party scene and an award-winning marching band. 

If the red brick paths and building walls could talk, they would tell the story of a community of Bobcats, connected by the traditions that leave them saying, “OU? Oh Yeah!”

Homecoming Week

Every year, alumni, staff, faculty and students alike gather for Homecoming week festivities. From an exciting parade to tailgates, performances and contests, Homecoming has become an important celebration of OU pride and spirit.

According to Bill Kimok, OU archivist and records manager, Homecoming at OU has been an event for over 100 years. 

In 1919, the OU student newspaper, The Green and White, published a headline—“We Are Expecting to See a Large Number of Ohio Graduates at Ohio-Denison Game, Nov. 22. How About it Alumni? Will You Be Here?”

Homecoming took place nearly every year since then, becoming an important part of OU tradition. 

“Homecoming is super important just so students can kind of increase their sense of school spirit,” said Andrew Pugh, a sophomore studying psychology and the Student Alumni Board’s Vice President of Student Outreach. “I think it's really helpful for them to see how large the community at OU is.”

Yell Like Hell 

The Yell Like Hell Pep Rally is OU’s annual pep rally hosted by the Student Alumni Board and OU’s Alumni Association. On the Thursday of Homecoming week, students, faculty and alumni join together, displaying an abundance of school spirit. This year, Pugh will be working to plan the event.

“The main goal of the event is to bring students together and kind of foster a community that allows students to make friends, build connections and find their place at the university,” said Pugh.

According to Pugh, one of the most important parts of planning the pep rally is organizing the performances. While preparing for the upcoming football game, pep rally participants can expect to be entertained by the cheerleading team, dance teams, local bands and the Marching 110. 

The Alumni Gateway

At the intersection of Court and Union streets — where Ohio University’s campus meets the city of Athens — there stands one of the most symbolic structures on campus: The Alumni Gateway.

The gateway was a gift from the graduating class of 1915 as a way to celebrate 100 years since the first students graduated from OU in 1815. Today, it represents the excellence that has come from OU alumni and the excellence that will be produced by current students. 

Upon entering College Green, the gateway reads, “So enter that daily thou mayest grow in knowledge, wisdom and love.” When leaving campus it says, “So depart that daily thou mayest better serve thy fellowmen thy country and thy God.”

As a tradition, new students walk toward campus for the very first time, entering the gateway, while graduates walk away from campus, moving toward the future.


At the heart of modern OU spirit is Rufus the bobcat. The mascot makes appearances at student gatherings or sporting events, even occasionally riding into Peden Stadium on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Compared to many OU traditions, Rufus is a fairly new addition.

“Actually the University had no official mascot until late 1925 and early 1926 when, after a $10 prize was offered for the best idea for a mascot,” said Kimok. “Until then, sports teams were known informally as the Ohio University nine, or the OU Gridiron eleven or something using the coach’s name or the Green and White of OU.”

Kimok explained that after that contest, OU adopted the name, the OHIO Bobcats. However, there was no physical representation of the Bobcats until a costume was unveiled at the 1960 Homecoming. After that, the OU mascot endured many alterations in appearance. Finally, in 2006, the name Rufus was adopted as a result of a naming contest. 

Rufus, the Alumni Gateway, Yell Like Hell and Homecoming week are just a few of the countless traditions the OU community has fostered, leaving generations of Bobcats coming back to the place they call “hOUme.”

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