The mountainside M was constructed in 1908 when 250 Mines students and 20 faculty members loaded a supply train of burros and packed their way up
In 1931, members of Mines’ chapter of Blue Key International Honor Society, a national leadership and service group that maintains the M, borrowed a tractor, generator, poles, wire and bulbs to light the M for homecoming. The first lighting of the monument was such a huge hit, students and civic committees raised money to light it permanently in 1932. In 1948, the lighting became fully automatic. Forty-one years later in 1989, the lighting system was modernized including wiring and conduit upgrades. The original light sockets were replaced with multi-bulb weatherproof fixtures. Lighting was computerized in 2003 with a wireless antenna system developed by a Mines Senior Design team. In 2008, Blue Key replaced the monument's 1,653 incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs.)
Each fall, incoming freshmen carry a 10-pound rock from campus to the M and coat the symbol with fresh whitewash. Graduating seniors are invited to return to the M and retrieve their rocks.
Cardboard canoe race
For three days each spring, Colorado School of Mines students put the stress of studying aside and celebrate Engineer’s Days (E-Days).
Highlights include the traditional (and legendary) fireworks show at Brooks Field, the ore-cart pull to the state capitol where the governor reads an E-Day proclamation, live entertainment, engineering-themed games, a cardboard canoe race down Clear Creek and more.
The Mines Band
The traditional Mines Marching Band wears red and black plaid shirts, jeans, hiking boots and hard hats — making it a unique presence among university bands. The band was established more than 50 years ago and has a rich tradition of performing for the school and the community.
In 1934, the first Silver Diplomas were awarded to graduating seniors.
According to the Colorado School of Mines Alumni Association archives:
"When Charles A. Hull engraved a silver diploma for his son, who graduated from Mines in 1933, he probably had little idea of the tradition that he was starting. Intrigued, President Coolbaugh asked Hull if it would be possible to make such diplomas for an entire graduating class. Hull said it would be. With approval from the faculty, trustees, and the state, silver diplomas were granted to each Mines graduate at the May 18, 1934 commencement. Measuring 5 inches by 6 inches, the diplomas were etched on sterling silver in an elaborate process requiring two men spending 500 man hours (roughly six weeks) to complete the 19 delicate operations for each diploma."
Though the inflationary cost of silver almost ended the tradition in the 1980s, the Silver Diplomas continue to be awarded to Mines graduates.