James Madison University is fortunate to have a very beautiful and long-lasting campus! With the university’s rich history comes many traditions. Here’s a list of some of the highlights: 

Sidestep the Alma Mater Stone

Alma Mater

The Alma Mater Seal is located at the entrance of the quad, displaying the words of the Alma Mater for all who step foot on campus. Because of the message that this stone represents, it is commonly believed to be bad luck to step on the seal. Students are especially cautious because many believe stepping on the seal will lead to bad luck during finals week. To avoid this misfortune, we recommend passing the seal on its right side. 

Breakfast with the President

Breakfast with the President

This JMU tradition started when Jonathan Alger became the president of the university in 2012. Each year, ten students are randomly selected to join the president for a causal breakfast where they engage in conversation about the university and student life. This event is a great way for both students and the president to learn about how the university environment is evolving. 

The Dog Walk

Dog Walk

Before every home football game, JMU’s football team marches down the street. Starting at Showker Hall and ending in front of the stadium. the team is led by the Marching Royal Dukes. This tradition was originally started by the Madison Society, but is now run by the athletic department. Everyone is encouraged to come talk to and pump up the football team before the game. 

Dukes Open Doors

Dukes Open Doors

Holding the door for someone is a value that is ingrained in Dukes from day one. This simple gesture is a more recent tradition that emphasizes the caring nature of the JMU community. It is a way to keep the community connected and caring for one another. 

Hanging Out on the Quad

Hanging Out on the Quad

At JMU, you can know if the weather is nice without ever having to leave your dorm. Once the temperatures start to rise in the spring, students flood the quad. On these days, you can spot people passing a frisbee, taking a nap in a hammock, or doing homework in the sunshine. While this may not seem like an obvious tradition, having a quad that students are encouraged to spend time on is not a universal experience. By offering the quad as a central location for students to spend their time, JMU promotes its unique culture of friendship and community among students.

 JMU Letters Photo-Op

JMU Letters

This JMU landmark was established in 2018, making it one of the newest traditions on campus. These giant letters have become a hotspot for taking photos on campus, whether you’re a prospective student who’s just had a tour, a current student who needs the perfect backdrop for a spirited social media post, or a visiting alumnus looking to show your pride. 

Kissing on the Kissing Rock

Kissing Rock

Located on the Quad, this large rock has become a staple of JMU’s culture. This tradition dates back to when JMU was Madison College, a women-only teaching school. At this time, women weren’t allowed to have men with them in their residence halls. To avoid breaking this rule, students would sit on this rock to kiss their dates. The romantic nature of this tradition has remained despite JMU being co-ed. Now, it is rumored that whoever you kiss on the rock will be the person you marry.

Dress Up Little Jimmy

Little Jimmy

Off of the Quad and on Bluestone Drive, Little Jimmy Madison stands proud. This life-sized statute seems a bit short, but it has a large presence on campus. During holidays and special times of year at JMU, you can find Little Jimmy dressed up with festive gear and googly eyes. This spot is also a popular photo opportunity for students and visitors alike. Who doesn’t want to take pictures with the president? 

Smooch The Pooch 

Smooch the Pooch

Need a little boost of luck? Kiss the Duke Dog statue! Since 2005, this giant, bronze Duke Dog has resided outside of Bridgeforth Stadium. Kissing the statues paw has become a time-honored tradition commonly observed by everyone from prospective students during Choices to current students who need some extra luck on their way to an exam. 

Paint the Spirit Rock

Spirit Rock

This rock is a beacon of free speech for the campus where students are welcome to paint over the rock to make their voice heard. The only rule: respect the culture and the university. This landmark was the first of the traditions that The Madison Society has implemented, and it has been the most successful. Since its introduction to the campus in 2011, the rock has been painted well over 700 times. While this makes it a bit difficult to capture each message, it embodies the constantly changing culture that JMU has to offer.  



If you’ve been to a football game at JMU, then you know this tradition. Dukes will throw purple and gold streamers at the first touchdown from JMU at home football games. What many people don’t know is that this JMU staple dates back to the 1980’s, when Dukes would throw toilet paper rolls after the first basket was made by JMU’s basketball team. However, this created a hazard on the court, so, in the early 2000s, this tradition moved to Bridgeforth Stadium 

Bleed Purple

Bleed Purple

On Fridays, members of the JMU community wear purple to show-off JMU pride for all to see. This tradition extends beyond the campus. Alumni all over the world participate by donning their JMU merch or trademark “We Bleed Purple” t-shirt. 

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