MBU Traditions

MBU’s traditions celebrate our history and our students. They provide an opportunity to create lasting memories with classmates and to connect to our proud history. The current campus community and generations of alumni come together to share experiences, have fun, and revel in our MBU traditions.



Ajani is a Swahili word meaning she who wins all struggles. Each year before Commencement, we honor seniors who have made a notable contribution to MBU’s diverse and inclusive community. The Ajani Celebration is a rite of passage ceremony that honors the engagement of students who have committed their MBU journey to inclusive excellence and charges its honorees to continue their service beyond graduation.

Apple Day and Apple Eve

One of the most popular and unique of MBU’s traditions, Apple Day was first celebrated in 1942. Historically, Apple Day was unscheduled, coming as a surprise to Mary Baldwin students. Today’s celebrations are announced in advance and include canceled classes for undergraduate students, a carnival, apple gleaning, and brunch with apple dishes served at the dining hall. Apple Day is also about giving back to the community: all of the apples gleaned during the day are donated to a local food bank.
The night before Apple Day, students gather at the PAC for a dodgeball tournament, then head to the Student Activities Center for a performance from the MBU dance clubs and the annual Remix the Hymn competition, followed by a dance.

Capstone Festival

In the earliest days of MBU, final examinations were conducted in public, with students giving recitations and solving math problems in front of the Board of Trustees, their peers, and the townspeople of Staunton. Held in May, the Capstone Festival connects us back to that history, giving a select group of seniors the opportunity to present their scholarly and artistic works to the wider campus community and the public. It’s a testament to the high quality of research, scholarship, and creative activities at MBU, a tribute to the legacy of those earlier years, and a celebration of our future.

“Conducting this senior research has taught me how to persevere through unexpected outcomes and unforeseen challenges and circumstances in the lab.”

Alexandra Wright, Class of 2023, Capstone Festival participant

Christmas Cheer and Tree Lighting

Christmas Cheer invites both the MBU and Staunton communities to join in the spirit of the season and watch as the MBU tree illuminates Page Terrace. During the celebration, student choral groups sing carols and festive songs, members of the college community read scripture, and everyone counts down to the tree lighting.

Decorating Ham and Jam

Decorating Ham and Jam: During Commencement weekend, seniors gather in front of Fox Leadership Hall to deck out Ham and Jam in their class colors, ring the MBU bell, and gather for a class photo.

Family Weekend

Each October, during Family Weekend, the Mary Baldwin campus fills with the families of Mary Baldwin students who come to visit and participate in a variety of activities, such as a theatre performance, downtown shopping, a Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership parade, and a “backyard” barbecue. Family Weekend also includes one of Mary Baldwin’s most treasured traditions, the Junior Ball, when members of the junior class and their families celebrate with a personal presentation and formal dance.

Founders Day

Founders Day marks the birthday of co-founder Mary Julia Baldwin and has been celebrated since 1898 with a ceremony in honor of the university’s two founders: Rufus W. Bailey and Mary Baldwin. It’s the day the senior class wears their caps and gowns for the first time, marching in procession to Page Terrace, also the site of their upcoming graduation.


Celebrated in February, Kwanzaa is one of the largest annual events at MBU and marks a special rite of passage for African American freshmen and graduating seniors, filling the Student Activities Center with feasting, music, dancing, drumming, and storytelling.

“You start out as one person and, at some point during that ceremony, you realize you’ve blossomed into this better, more confident version of yourself.”

Tiffany Foreman, Class of 2004, on Kwanzaa

Las Posadas

A reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter celebrated in Latin American communities around the world, Las Posadas at Mary Baldwin is a pilgrimage that travels across campus, with each stop celebrating a different culture’s holiday traditions.

Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

Since 1992, Mary Baldwin University students and community members honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with activities like a reading room, workshops, lectures, and a community vesper service for peace and justice in downtown Staunton.

Opening Convocation

At the end of Orientation weekend, the candle-lit convocation ceremony celebrates and welcomes new students as the community recites the Pledge of Inclusivity and sings the Hymn to Mary Baldwin.

SGA Installation

Installation of new Student Government Association officers occurs every spring, as one group of Mary Baldwin leaders passes the torch to the next, and they reaffirm the university’s commitment to upholding student governance and the honor code.

“Being a leader starts long before the title on our campus, where students have so many opportunities to get involved, inspire others, and put their visions into fruition.”

Qadira Muhammad, Class of 2019, former SGA president

Signature Ball

Hosted by the student-run Baldwin Program Board during the last weekend in January, Signature Ball is a formal dance held on Saturday evening.

MBU Symbols

The following symbols point to MBU’s guiding principles and bring our community together during important university events and student milestones. They connect current students to MBU’s history and generations of alumni, providing inspiration along the way of their educational journey.  

Class Colors

Starting in 1912, Mary Baldwin students picked two colors to represent their class, and the next three class years did the same. You’ll see class colors represented in the medallions first-year students receive at Opening Convocation, and when seniors decorate Ham and Jam and participate in the Ajani Ceremony during Commencement weekend. Each new entering class of Mary Baldwin carries on the tradition of sharing class colors:

2024Purple and Gold
2025Lavender and White
2026Scarlet and Gold
2027Green and White

A Hymn for Mary Baldwin

Sung at several annual events such as Opening Convocation and Commencement and set to the melody of a Scandinavian folk song, A Hymn for Mary Baldwin was written by Professor Emeritus of Music Gordon Page in the mid-’60s. 

  1. To these halls where Wisdom reckons,
    To these hills where Beauty dwells;
    Where the search for Learning beckons,
    Where its tumult never quells.
  2. Here we bring our childhood visions
    Stirring in the quest for Truth;
    Here we forge the mind’s decisions
    Tempered by the faith of youth
  1. Friendship, honor, sorrow, laughter
    Are the ways by which we learn,
    Knowledge first, then Wisdom after,

    Love that seeks not for return.
  2. When we reach the last tomorrow
    Of our days in class, on field,
    We will know how we must borrow,
    Mary Baldwin, from thy yield

Inclusivity Pledge

The MBU community recites the Pledge of Inclusivity during the annual State of the University and Opening Convocation, reaffirming the commitment of all faculty, staff, and students to the university’s inclusive community:

We, the community of Mary Baldwin University, strive to celebrate humanity in all its wondrous and complex variation. Because we value diversity, it is our mission to sustain a community where all may flourish. We are safe to embrace our shared experiences and our differences. To this end, we treat all with respect and compassion.


The Fighting Squirrels team nickname is inspired by the squirrel featured in the family crest of MBU namesake Mary Julia Baldwin. Fighting Squirrels are courageous, dynamic, and authentic, capturing the spirit of Mary Baldwin University and its students. 

Baldwin the Fighting Squirrel is the official mascot of MBU Athletics. Introduced in 2019, Baldwin appears at MBU athletic events, as well as other campus and community events. Learn more about Baldwin here

After emerging on the scene in the early 1980s, Gladys the Squirrel today serves as an ambassador to alumni and the Mary Baldwin College for Women. She may be seen at events such as Homecoming, Reunion, and alumni chapter meetings.

Latin Motto

Non pro tempore sed aeternitate — Not for time but eternity.

University Seal

The university seal bears the symbols of a squirrel, an acorn, oak leaves, and its motto. The designs were taken from the Baldwin’s family crest, thought to be derived from their ancestors in Ireland and England.

Find your level-up at MBU.
Connect with an Admissions Counselor.