This graduation season, students will lovingly inspect their hard-earned diplomas and come across something they never gave much thought to before: their school motto. The standard school motto is a Latin platitude about truth, knowledge, honor, duty and stuff like that, but some mottos do things a little differently. Here are 15 college mottos that go beyond the ordinary.
1. SI QUAERIS PAENINSULAM AMOENAM CIRCUMSPICE
The motto of Lake Superior University is part of the seal of the state of Michigan: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you.” With coasts on four of the five great lakes, peninsulas are indeed not hard to come by in Michigan.
2. OMNIA EXTARES
At The Evergreen State College, a liberal arts college founded in the swinging '60s in Washington state, the motto fits the laid-back attitude: Omnia Extares, “let it all hang out.”
3. VOX CLAMANTIS IN DESERTO
Dartmouth College goes with “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness” as its motto. The phrase was taken from the Bible, but it fit the college well when it started in 1769 in the rough wilds of New Hampshire.
4. IN MONTIBUS, EX MONTIBUS, PRO MONTIBUS
“In the mountains, of the mountains, for the mountains.” Lees-McRae College, in the heart of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, not only has great mountain views, it also has a focus on Appalachian culture and history.
5. 'EN CHA HUNÁ
Not many colleges have mottos in Dakelh, a native language of Canada, but the University of Northern British Columbia does. It translates as “respecting all forms of life.” According to the school website, it is a phrase that “would be used when reminding someone, critical of another, that that person was also a living being, with a voice and a viewpoint.”
6. HAZARD ZET FORWARD
There are also not many college mottos in a combination of Norman French and Old English. Hazard Zet Forward had been part of the Seton family crest for centuries before it came to Seton Hall. It means “hazard yet forward” or “despite the danger, keep going.”
7. IN PULVERE VINCES
Nova Scotia’s Acadia University tells us, “In dust, you win.” In other words, you gotta get a little dirty with hard work to succeed.
8. DIE LUFT DER FREIHEIT WEHT
“The wind of freedom blows” at Stanford University, but why does it do it in German? It’s a long story that starts when Leland Stanford was impressed by the phrase in a speech on a 16th century German humanist.
9. BE ASHAMED TO DIE UNTIL YOU HAVE WON SOME VICTORY FOR HUMANITY
It’s a bit long to fit on the seal of Antioch College, but this quote from Horace Mann is the school’s no-beating-around-the-bush motto. Better get to it kids.
10. NON INCAUTUS FUTURI
Washington and Lee takes a gentler approach with “not unmindful of the future.” As in, we like to study history and the classics and all that, but not to the point where we don’t think about the future too. We’re not not thinking about it.
11. NUMEN LUMEN
The motto of the University of Wisconsin, Madison is not that unusual in terms of sentiment. Many schools reference religious notions of divinity and light, as does Numen Lumen, translating as “God, our light” or “The divine within the universe, however manifested, is my light.” But no one beats this one for simplicity, meter, and rhyme.
12. FACIO LIBEROS EX LIBERIS LIBRIS LIBRAQUE
The motto of St. John’s College is longer and harder to say, but it’s a beautiful play on Latin roots for language lovers. It takes advantage of the similarity between the adjective liber (free), the noun liber (book), the noun liberi (children), and the noun libra (scale). It says "I make free adults out of children by means of books and a balance."
13. I WOULD FOUND AN INSTITUTION WHERE ANY PERSON CAN FIND INSTRUCTION IN ANY STUDY
Cornell University’s motto is also a mouthful, but it plainly sums up the intentions of founder Ezra Cornell.
14. PRODESSE QUAM CONSPICI
While some school mottos go to town crowing about excellence and greatness, the motto of Miami University of Ohio takes a modest approach. “Achieve without conspicuousness.” Y’know, just go along doing great things, no need to brag about it.
15. FORTITER, FELICITER, FIDELITER
Cheerfulness is not a typical feature of school mottos, but the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has it in the melodious alliteration of the Latin as well as the jaunty English translation: “Boldly, Happily, Faithfully."