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Students and Purple Poo at Midnight Breakfast  with Poo Say signs and Purple Pancakes

Traditions and History

Tarleton State University is an institution that is over 115 years old and therefore, incredibly rich in tradition. From the moment the campus gates opened in 1899, Tarleton has been focused on being a university that creates memories for students that will transcend time. One of our favorite traditions is Purple Thursday, where students, faculty, and staff alike all sport their purple Tarleton gear.

Read the Purple Book to learn about all of Tarleton’s traditions, including the bonfire and the infamous Purple Poo. You can also check out our interactive historical timeline to learn the full story of how Tarleton State University came to be. Tarleton was also the very first university to become a part of the Texas A&M University System in 1917.

Important Figures

Color painting of John Tarleton

John Tarleton

John Tarleton began his journey at a young age, working in many different areas. He invested his salary in government certificates in which he acquired 10,000 acres of land located in Erath and Palo Pinto counties. In his will, Tarleton said he had about $85,000 which he would like to donate to a school now known as Tarleton State University.

Read more about Tarleton's founder!

Female students posing at graduation with Oscar P mascot.

Oscar P

Legend has it that John Tarleton had a pet duck named Oscar P who went everywhere with him. The two were so close that Oscar P is said to be buried with Tarleton. At various student activities, the Purple Poo rally Tarleton students by raising the spirit of Oscar P.

Purple Poo members with Dr. Dottavio, Tarleton president, during May Fete ceremony

Purple Poo

The Purple Poo is the oldest spirit organization in the state of Texas, evolving from the TTP/TTS spirit organizations. They attend many student activities on campus dressed in costumes with the mission to promote the spirit of Tarleton.

Learn more about the Purple Poo!

Spirit Gesture

Tarleton Texans show their spirit by raising their hand folded in the shape of Texas. The shape is created by extending the thumb out, the pointer and middle fingers upward while folding the ring and pinky fingers inward to point at where Stephenville would be located on a map of Texas.

The Texan Rider

Although Tarleton's athletic history dates back to 1904, no current records indicate a nickname for its athletic teams until 1917. It was upon joining The Texas A&M University System in 1917 that the Tarleton athletic teams became known as the “Junior Aggies.” In 1925 legendary coach and athletics director W.J. Wisdom offered the attractive figure of $5.00 to any student who could come up with a sports moniker that he liked. The story has it that one day while walking across campus the nickname "Plowboys" (many of Tarleton's athletes then were agricultural students with rural and farming backgrounds) popped into his head. Wisdom liked the name so much he kept the $5.00.

In 1961, college officials decided to have a contest to come up with a new athletic nickname to reflect Tarleton's new status as a four-year college. The top three vote-getters were "Texans," "Rockets," and "Packrats." Given the three choices. "Texans" was chosen. All the men's athletic teams were referred to as the "Texans", and the women's teams slowly became known as the "TexAnns".

Annual Events

Back of student shirt that reads "Duck Camp, Tarleton State University".

Duck Camp

Duck Camp is a transition camp for incoming Tarleton Texans. Duck Camp is designed to provide incoming students with the opportunity to increase their awareness of campus activities, organizations, and Tarleton’s rich traditions.

Learn about Duck Camp
Group of smiling students holding up free Tarleton t-shirts and hats.

Howdy Week

The first week of school each fall is designated as Howdy Week. Various departments and student organizations welcome new and returning students back to campus with super fun events, free food, and giveaways.

Get ready for Howdy Week
Block T made out of candles surrounded by new Tarleton students during the Candle Lighting Ceremony

Convocation & Candle Lighting Ceremony

During convocation, the start of Howdy Week, incoming students are officially welcomed to the Tarleton family. Each student lights a candle whose flame will burn until their life is finished, and their Tarleton brothers and sisters extinguish their flame at the Silver Taps Ceremony.

Convocation 2017
Cheerleader with pom-poms smiling in front of crowd.


Launching of the Ducks, Midnight Breakfast, Silver Bugle Hunt and so many more events bring current students together and welcome Alumni back to campus.

View all Homecoming Traditions
Historical images of May Fete Queens from 1923 and 2015

Founder's Week

The Founder’s Day Celebration, which originated in 1902, was a tribute to John Tarleton celebrated each November to coincide with Tarleton’s birthday. Today the Student Government Association coordinates Founder’s Day activities in April. Events include the Silver Taps Ceremony and May Féte.

Read about Founder's Week
People mourning the passed Tarleton students, faculty, staff, and alumni holding candles.

Silver Taps Ceremony

The Silver Taps ceremony is a somber event that honors the faculty, staff, students, and alumni, who died during the previous year, it has been held for many years in conjunction with Founder's Week activities.

Find out more about Silver Taps
Boys sitting on remains of crashed airplane

Defenders of the Bonfire

On November 29, 1939, rivals North Texas Agriculture College flew over the Tarleton campus and attempted to bomb our bonfire and raid our land. Tarleton students threw various objects at the plane which repulsed both land and air attacks. The NTAC students were captured, given a block-T haircut, and sent on their way. The Homecoming bonfire has been dedicated to L. V. Risinger, defender of our bonfire, who died in 1994.


TTS member holding sign that says "Stay off the grass!"

Respect the Campus

True Tarleton Texans honor the campus by not walking on the grass. This long-standing tradition is one reason the Tarleton campus has retained its beauty for more than 100 years. In addition, Texans should refrain from walking on the Texan Rider mosaic in front of the Tarleton Center and the university seal in front of the Thompson Student Center.

John Tarleton statue and trees


There are the same number of trees on campus as counties in Texas. Each tree has a small silver tag on it. Every year campus trees are damaged or lost due to natural causes. Tarleton’s Office of Physical Facilities tree renewal efforts provide for the planting of trees annually to replace those that have been removed due to these factors.

Tarleton Brick pattern

Tarleton Brick

The story of the red brick used in many of Tarleton’s iconic campus buildings began early in the 20th century. At the coaxing of Tarleton benefactress Pearl Wiley Cage, brick plant owner Edgar Marston in 1902 donated material to build the first red brick building on campus. Marston and other successful business owners were later persuaded to provide needed money to help make Tarleton part of the Texas A&M System. Today, much of campus is made of an actual Acme Brick color, Tarleton Blend.

John Tarleton statue at Alumni Island

Alumni Island

Alumni Island features the statue of our founding father, John Tarleton and his pet duck Oscar P. This statue is 10 feet tall and is a symbol of history, tradition, and far-reaching vision. University events are held in this area and it is also used by students to meet and socialize between classes.


Purple Book

Read the Purple Book to learn about all of Tarleton’s traditions, including the bonfire and the infamous Purple Poo.