Symbols at Rochester
“Meliora” is the official motto of the University of Rochester. The Latin noun or adjective is interpreted to mean “ever better” or “always better.” The faculty voted for it in 1851, and it continues to be used on the official logo and seal of the University.
The motto’s suggestion is credited to Asahel Kendrick, professor of Greek. The idea is believed to originate from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, book 7, lines 20-21: “video meliora, proboque…,” which means, “I see better things, and approve…”
Detail on the ceremonial mace used during Commencement
Stylized dandelion decal
The dandelion is the official flower of the University, and has been for the better part of its 150 years.
The University was originally housed in the former United States Hotel, a four-story brick and stone structure located downtown. But the need for a more spacious and scenic space was apparent to students and faculty.
In 1853, Azariah Boody donated eight acres of cow pastures on his East Avenue estate to the University. With an additional 17 acres purchased from Boody, this became the Prince Street campus.
According to legend, the well-fertilized cow pasture resulted in a profusion of dandelions that distinguished the campus and led to the flower’s adoption as the school emblem.
“Dandelion yellow” is one of the University’s official colors, and The Dandelion Yellow is one of the official University of Rochester songs. The first verse of the song highlights Boody’s—and his cows’—contribution:
O, Azariah Boody’s cows were sleek and noble kine
They wandered o'er verdant fields where grew the dandelion.
And when they drove the cows away
To build a home for knowledge
They took the color from the flow'r
And gave it to the college.
Dandelion yellow and Rochester blue are the official colors of the University of Rochester.
The colors associated with the University changed several times during Rochester’s first 100 years. Around 1893, the school’s gray and blue colors were deemed unsuitable and dandelion yellow was selected as the replacement color (at the time, yellow was also the emblem of the women’s suffrage movement).
In 1954, the University formally adopted the dandelion yellow and a navy blue as the official Rochester colors. These are now interpreted to be Pantone 109 and Pantone 541, respectively.
The Rochester sports teams became the “Yellowjackets” in 1925. According to legend, that’s when football player J. Howard Garnish ’27 urged on his yellow-clad teammates with the cheer, “Go you Yellow Jackets!”
In a 1979 letter to the editor of Rochester Review, Garnish said the name actually came from an editorial he wrote in the campus newspaper:
I was on the staff of The Campus, the weekly newspaper, assigned to writing editorials. Before the team went to Troy I wrote what I considered an inspirational editorial which ended: "Come on, you Yellowjackets—on to Rensselaer!"
That started campus arguments. At the time there was a pro team known as the Pittsburgh Yellowjackets, and some students thought it would be better to call Rochester teams the Dandylions. But somehow the name that had come to me on the spur of an editorial deadline stuck.
Rocky is Rochester’s Yellowjacket mascot, based on the yellow jacket wasp common in North America.
Since the mid-1920s, the mascot has been portrayed in a range of styles, from club-wielding to cuddly. The latter characterized URBee (pronounced “Erbie”), the iteration of the mascot born in 1983.
In 2008, Rocky replaced URBee after a yearlong initiative to update Rochester’s mascot to better reflect the University’s athletics programs and competitive spirit.
The University’s alma mater is The Genesee, written by T.T. Swinburne, class of 1892. Traditionally only the first and third verses of the alma mater are sung at University functions. Originally, there were six verses to the song.
At the time the song was written, the Prince Street campus was some distance from the Genesee River. Swinburne could not have imagined how appropriate his verse would become with the move to River Campus in 1930.
Full many fair and famous streams
Beneath the sun there be,
Yet more to us than any seems
Our own dear Genesee.
We love her banks and stately falls,
For to our minds they bring
Our dear old alma mater's halls
Where sweetest mem’ries cling.
No castled crags along her way
Romantic splendors cast;
No fabled or historic lay
Recalls the golden past.
But more than battlemented walls,
Or legends they may bear,
Are alma mater’s vine-clad halls
And mem’riesling’ring there.
As flows the river gath’ring force,
Along her steadfast way,
May we along life's devious course
Grow stronger day by day.
And may our hearts, where’er we roam,
Forever loyal be
To our beloved college home
Beside the Genesee.
The Dandelion Yellow is another notable Rochester song. Official songbooks and lyrics are available from the library.
The logo is the foundation of the University’s graphic identity and was implemented in 2007, following a yearlong, University-wide process.
The logo includes the University’s full name and a shield adopted from the shield in the official seal. Laying over the top of the shield is a banner containing the University motto: Meliora. The shield features three medallions:
- A book, representing arts and sciences
- A lyre, representing music
- The staff of Aesculapius (the Greek god of medicine and healing), representing medicine
The seal is used only for events and materials of an official or ceremonial nature by the president and the Board of Trustees. More about the seal is provided at Creative Services.