SUU Blog | T-Bird Nation

T-Bird Nation: A University Built on Tradition

By Miles Anderson on August 23, 2017 in

Students, Traditions, History

Southern Utah University, a school founded only a year after Utah attained statehood, has transformed from a school with only one building and a community of only 1,500 members to a thriving University with nearly 10,000 students. An institution with such rich history has naturally developed a series of unique traditions along the way, traditions that are unforgettable for those lucky enough to participate.


Carter Carillon

college students red thunderbird

The Carter Carillon Bell Tower provides a scenic and symbolic location for brand new T-Birds to take part in their very first SUU tradition. Following their attendance at “Thunder U”, an orientation for new students, all Freshmen gather in the Centrum to start their walk up the pathway from the Centrum to the Belltower. The walkway is lined with fellow students, faculty, family members, and members of the Cedar City community who shout their encouragements and give out high-fives to show support for the students who have chosen to make SUU their new home for the next four years. As freshman approach the belltower, the cheering reaches a crescendo as they walk underneath the Carter Carillon to the east toward the sunrise, a symbol of the beginning of their educational experience at SUU.

Following this experience, it is tradition not to walk underneath the bell tower again until graduation. On that day, in cap and gown, graduating students walk underneath the bell tower to the west toward the sunset, symbolic of their SUU education coming to an end.

It is rumored that those who choose not to follow tradition and walk underneath the bell tower prior to their graduation are cursed with bad luck...

Paint the Town Red

student life college university

Once school is back in session, the community of Cedar City and SUU students gather for a celebration known as “Paint the Town Red”. At this event, downtown Main Street is closed and booths from University organizations and businesses from around town line the street.

Food trucks, photo booths, and live music make the night a memorable experience and a time for members of the Cedar City community to bond with the students and start building relationships.

True T-Bird

Homecoming week is packed with fun events, food, and T-Bird pride. One homecoming tradition in particular is anticipated with both dread and excitement depending on one's relationship status. Following the Forever Red party which includes live bands, fireworks, and more food than could possibly be eaten in one night, the students head down to the statue of Old Sorrell just before midnight.

While the Student Association hands out chapstick and breath mints, the rest of the students frantically search for someone (or someones) with whom they can become a True T-Bird. As the countdown to midnight begins, as many students as possible pack in to touch the statue of Old Sorrell and kiss their special someone (or stranger they just met) at the stroke of midnight. All those who participate can now call themselves True T-Birds! While it is only necessary to participate once to become a true T-Bird, that doesn’t stop upperclassmen from taking part in this tradition year after year.  

The Fight Song

suu thunderbirds football crowd fight song

A source of pride for any T-bird is the SUU fight song.

We will che-er for the red and white, of our fighting SUU! Hear our battle cry, echo through the sky, as our team comes blazing through! They will fight, fight, fight, when they hear us shout, as we sing our victory song. We will run, we will score, till the “Thunder Roars”, and the T-Birds win once more! Go, Go, Go… Fight, Fight, Fight…. Win T-Birds!

Founders Week- Lunch on the Main

Come spring semester, SUU celebrates the anniversary of its founding with a week-long celebration known as founders week. A student favorite event that takes place during founders week is lunch on the main. During this event students can track down free food from several different locations on campus including the library plaza, the library entrance, the statue of Old Sorrell, the Centurium, and the Sharwan Smith Student Center.

At each station, a different type of food is provided while relatives of the founders of SUU tell the story of the role their ancestors played in making the university a reality in Cedar City. It’s an opportunity for students to learn more about the hard work and sacrifice that went into the establishment of the university they now call home.

Pancake Study Break

When the dreaded finals week finally arrives, tensions are running high and students are in desperate need of some respite. To make up for the stress they cause students during finals week, professors and faculty serve all-you-can-eat pancakes, bacon, orange juice, and chocolate milk to students on the evening before finals begin. This event gives students a much needed break from studying and a chance to relax before finals begin.

Gerald Sherratt’s Lucky Head

suu president statue thunderbird

One of the more superstitious traditions involves former SUU President Gerald Sherratt. The Library is named after President Sherratt and his statue resides in the lobby on the first floor. Rumor has it that if you rub the statue's bald head before an important exam, you will somehow tap into the wisdom of Gerald Sherratt and receive a good grade. Whether or not this practice actually enhances the intellectual ability of the participant is still in question, but there is no denying that a true believer will find confidence and comfort from a quick pat before an exam.


While these traditions help paint a picture of the fun, inviting, and superstitious memories that can be made while at SUU, they are just a small taste of the rich culture found at Southern Utah University. New traditions are created every year as students bring their own unique perspectives and personalities and continue to write the memorable history of this institution.