Spirit and Traditions

Graduation ceremony

A legacy of spirit, tradition and pride

Here on the Hilltop, we’re big on spirit and tradition, and we take a lot of pride in the rich, century long history of the University. From Move-In Day hustle and bustle and game-day Boulevarding to the Celebration of Lights cheer and Commencement excitement, milestones throughout the year are marked with unforgettable special festivities. From your first Family Weekend to your 50th Homecoming game, you’ll never stop being a Mustang.


The SMU motto is veritas liberabit vos, or, “The truth will make you free.” Chosen by SMU’s first president, the motto was adopted in 1912. It’s featured all across campus, including in the official SMU seal cast into the rotunda floor of SMU’s first building, Dallas Hall.

Incoming freshmen walk through Dallas Hall

Alma Mater

Written by an SMU theology student in 1916 and set to words by SMU’s first band director in 1929, “Varsity” has been proudly sung at University events from Opening Convocation to Commencement to sporting events ever since.


School Colors

SMU’s official school colors are red and blue.

SMU banners at the game

Live Mascot

SMU’s live mascot, Peruna IX, is a miniature Shetland pony named after an early 20th-century medicine, Peruna Tonic – which was said to have a kick. Mustang fans show school pride with pony ears during school songs, chants and cheers. Learn about the history of the nine Perunas here.

Peruna running


Pony ears

Pony Ears

We use our “pony ears” hand symbol for pretty much all occasions – when posing for a photo, cheering on the Mustangs or singing our school songs. To make them, start with a peace sign and let your first and middle fingers “relax” so that they’re slightly bent. If you’re singing the fight song, rock your hand back and forth with the music. When you find yourself on campus, bring your pony ears, too! 




Every fall, the Mustang community gathers on the Hilltop to celebrate Homecoming. Students compete through their organizations in a variety of activities to win the day, alumni gather from across the street or around the globe to reconnect at reunion parties, families from surrounding neighborhoods come to watch the Homecoming parade, and all are encouraged to cheer on the ’stangs at Ford Stadium! 

The Boulevard


The Boulevard

At SMU, we like to say that we don’t tailgate – we Boulevard. Before home football games, you’ll find students, alumni and Mustang fans socializing up and down Bishop Boulevard. One alumna, Palmer Beldy ’22, shares her top tips for a successful Boulevard.



The Hilltop

More than a century ago, when our founders set out to find the place to lay the cornerstone of Dallas Hall, they chose the highest point on campus, from where you could look out upon the beautiful city of Dallas toward downtown and the prosperous future that was to come. From there, the nickname "the Hilltop" was born, and it’s the name by which we still refer to our tree-lined, 234-acre campus in the heart of one of the nation’s economic and cultural powerhouses.

The hilltop


PerunaPalooza | SMU’s springtime festival celebrating Peruna’s birthday. Students enjoy games, rides and activities while helping themselves to a variety of carnival-inspired free food.

Pigskin RevueDuring Homecoming Weekend, Mustangs take part in our longest running tradition, the Pigskin Revue. Started in 1933, this variety show features acts from groups across the community – students, faculty and alumni. The Mustang Band is heavily featured as participants sing, dance and even take part in some stand-up comedy. 


Celebration of Lights | SMU and the surrounding communities gather for this joyous occasion to watch the famous Dallas Hall light up with thousands of lights. Guests gather on the Dallas Hall lawn for hot cocoa, cider and warm cookies and to hear holiday carols performed by SMU students. After SMU President R. Gerald Turner reads the Christmas Story, the special evening concludes with the singing of Silent Night and the lighting of SMU’s stunning Dallas Hall and surrounding trees.

Celebration of Lights

Tate Lecture Series | The lecture series brings to campus some of the world's most interesting and provocative speakers, including former presidents, commentators, futurists and artistic legends. The Tate Lecture Series annually returns almost $1 million in student scholarships to the University.