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University Traditions

It Begins with a Name

UNC wasn't always the University of Northern Colorado. That name came to be in the spring of 1970, after the institution had grown in size and academic offering.

What became UNC, began on April 1,  1889, when the governor of Colorado signed the bill creating the Colorado State Normal School to train qualified teachers for the state's public schools. Greeley citizens raised the necessary money for the first building, and the cornerstone was laid on June 13, 1890. The school opened its doors on October 6 with a staff of four instructors and 96 students. Certificates were granted upon the completion of a two-year course. Normal still finds its way onto UNC licensed apparel.

In 1911 the school's name changed to Colorado State Teachers College by the state legislature. By then, the college was offering four years of undergraduate work and granting the Bachelor of Arts degree. In 1935 the name of Colorado State College of Education was adopted to recognize the fully developed graduate program, which was started in 1913. Early in 1957 the state legislature approved shortening the name to Colorado State College.

Then finally, in April 1970, to recognize the further growth of programs and offerings, the state approved the name that is now known across the global Bear Network, the University of Northern Colorado.

During that time of change and since then, the UNC Alumni Association has served the institution and its graduates as way to remain connected, involved and informed. Today the UNC Alumni Association celebrates traditions that span our unique history and diverse community.

Becoming the Bears

Until 1925, the official name of the athletic teams was the Teachers. Since then, we have been called the Bears, due to the bear carving atop an Alaskan Tlingit Indian totem pole that came to the school in 1914.

Nicknamed Totem Teddy, it served as a school symbol until 2003, when it was properly returned to the Tlingits under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. A bronze bear sculpture, Northern Vision, took its place and currently resides on the north side of the University Center.

The totem's history and travel home


Blue & Gold

Ever wonder why the university changed its colors from purple and gold to blue and gold? A well known campus myth claims that former Head Football Coach Bob Blasi purchased navy blue jerseys after laundering caused the purple jerseys to fade. According to the story, this switch caused a domino effect and the new color scheme was quickly adopted by the other coaches.

While the myth does contain some verifiable facts, many of the specifics were never substantiated, leaving the definitive cause of our color change to fade with history. We do, however, know for certain that the switch to blue and gold was made official in 1976.

Show Your Pride by Joining the Blue & Gold Club

Hi Bridge

A gift from the 1940 senior class, Hi Bridge is located between Gunter and Gray Hall. Originally it led to the front door of Bru Inn, the former student union. The bridge established the tradition that anyone who crossed the bridge, friend or stranger, were to greet each other with a cordial “Hi”

Today upper class delegates for the Hi Bridge Society represent UNC's diverse student body at events and programs throughout the year. Delegates apply each fall and are announced during Homecoming week. 

Songs and Sounds from Campus

Alma Mater

"Ah! Well I Remember" was created in 1937 by James De Forest Cline, who led the music division from 1923 until he retired in 1949.

Ah! Well I Remember, Friends of "Purple and Gold."
Friends met in September, Pledging their Faith to hold.
Gone, Friends of September, Gone dear friends of old.
Time never shall sever, Friends of "Purple and Gold."
Time never shall sever, Friends of "Purple and Gold."

Fight Song

The fight song, played by UNC’s marching band Pride of the Rockies during home games and performances, is well known to UNC Bears.

On down the field we go to victory, the colors navy blue & gold.
And to our fighting team we hold our spirit high.
The mighty Bears are we .... GO BEARS!!
Fight, fight to win each battle fairly,
The only way we e'er shall be,
We shout out the name,
To keep the fame and glory to old U-N-C!

Gunter Bells

Remember the peal of Westminster chimes from Gunter Hall, UNC's iconic central campus building?

Remember how they sang to you? How they got you to class on time and hurried you across campus to dining halls or football games? The campus ringtone still plays every 15 minutes from Gunter Hall.

iPhone Ringtone

Android & Windows Ringtone

Views from the Past

Throughout the years, campus life has been captured and memorialized by the dedication of campus photographers. Originally published in the school annual Cache la Poudre, today many of the photos that celebrate UNC are shared on social media using #UNCBears.