Timeless traditions

Tar Heel icons

From taking a sip out of the iconic Old Well or signing a brick inside the bell tower to living in trademark buildings and relaxing in the shade of legendary landscaping, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is home to centuries-old traditions that students still cherish today.

Stories behind the legends

Press the play button for the stories behind some of Carolina's more iconic symbols.

    The Davie Poplars

    Towering over McCorkle Place are two large tulip poplar trees named after Carolina’s founder William Davie. The oldest — Davie Poplar — has stood since before the University opened in 1795. The tree has become so iconic that legend says if the Davie Poplar falls, then the University will also fall. Not taking any chances, Carolina planted Davie Poplar Jr. more than a century ago, creating a royal line of trees.

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    Rameses, a Horned Dorset sheep, and his ancestors have been entertaining Tar Heel fans since 1924. Rameses lives a life of leisure during the week, but on football game days, he’s in full mascot mode, posing for pictures with hundreds of fans and bringing joy to the Carolina crowd from the sidelines at Kenan Stadium.

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    Master Bell Ringers

    People all over campus hear the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower’s chimes each day, but two Carolina students listen with particular interest. Following in a 90-year tradition, the two students serve as the tower's master bell ringers by overseeing the bell tower’s operations and ringing the bells on football game days and other special occasions.

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Carolina traditions

  • The first sip

    Few places signify Carolina like the Old Well and few occasions bring as much excitement to the campus landmark as the first day of class. Decades-old tradition says a drink from the Old Well before a student’s first class of the semester can bring good luck in the form of good grades, even a 4.0.

  • Senior Bell Tower Climb

    During Senior Week every year, members of the senior class hike up the 128 steps inside the bell tower to sign their name on bricks. The UNC General Alumni Association has been hosting the event since 2003.

  • Celebrating 225 years of Carolina at University Day

    For 225 years, Tar Heels have paved the way to a better world for generations to come. We walk the unpaved road with curiosity, courage and compassion. We build a better future one step at a time. And we’re just getting started.