Mines History and Traditions

Mines Traditions

M Climb

Started in 1908 by 250 students, 20 faculty members and a team of burros, first-year students start their Mines journey with a short hike up Mt. Zion carrying a 10-pound rock from their hometown to add to the famous hillside “M.” This beloved tradition brings students together during the first week of school to introduce new students to the Mines community, build a sense of camaraderie and show off Golden’s beauty.






Each spring, Orediggers put aside their studies to celebrate what it means to be an Oredigger at Engineering Days—or E-Days. The three-day celebration features a cardboard boat race down Clear Creek, an ore cart pull to Colorado’s state capitol building, a drilling competition and engineering games, live entertainment and one of the best fireworks shows around. 

students around homecoming bonfire


As one of Mines’ signature experiences, the annual Homecoming celebrations highlight the best of the Oredigger spirit and Mines traditions. The event typically includes a distinguished lecture—from famous faces such as Bill Nye and Mae Jemison—a 5K, tailgate and football game, sunrise M Climb, awards and more.

students dancing at international day

International Day

Hosted by the International Student Council and International Office, International Day is one of the biggest campus events of the year. This yearly event celebrates Mines’ international community through global cuisine, cultural exhibits and exciting performances.

Women at Mines

Throughout its history, women have had a place at Mines, pioneering the future for women in engineering and science. Today, women make up more than 30 percent of the Oredigger community and graduate at a higher rate than their male peers. Mines is committed to promoting gender equity and inclusive excellence, supporting and creating opportunities for all who come to Mines with the goal of making the world a better place.

Fight Song

Dating back to 1879, the music is based on a song called “Son of a Gambolier” and definitely sounds like something that might have been heard in a mining town saloon!

Helluva Service Event

This annual connection-building event is a student-driven day of community service for our beloved City of Golden. Students from across campus come together and complete a variety of projects that help give back to the community that has supported and been home to Mines for so many years.

Capstone Design

Mines has long been a preferred partner when tackling some of the world’s most pressing engineering and scientific challenges, and Capstone Design puts that collaboration on display—quite literally. The yearlong, client-driven design challenge provides the opportunity for students to engage with industry, government agencies and community organizations to develop multidisciplinary approaches to solving real-world problems and prepares students to enter the workforce. Student teams present their solutions to their clients and show off their innovations at a design showcase each semester. 

Colorado School of Mines Silver Plated Diploma

Silver-Plated Diplomas

While the degrees granted by Mines are valuable and unique, so are the diplomas themselves. The silver-plated metal diplomas are are 5″ by 5.75″ with the diploma wording engraved on the surface and the seals of Colorado School of Mines and the State of Colorado. All Mines graduates will receive one silver-plated metal diploma for each degree awarded as their official university diploma after graduation and upon certification of their degree.


Blaster the Burro represents the hard work, determination and dedication Orediggers are known for and has long been a much-loved symbol of the Mines spirit. Blaster made his first appearance at Mines when Frederick Foss—a longtime Golden resident and Mines advocate—brought his burro to Mines football games in the mid 20th century and students fell fast and hard for the burro. Now a mainstay at all Mines athletic events, Blaster has become a strong representation of the Mines brand and Oredigger values.

Loan began with Edgar Mine, one of only two university-run mines in the U.S.


First formal commencement, graduating William Middleton and Walter Wiley

graduation cap

One of the first four
colleges in the U.S.
to establish ROTC

military dog tags

History of Mines

Golden, first known as Golden City, was established in 1859 and served as a supply center for miners and settlers in the area. By 1866, Bishop George M. Randall arrived in the territory and, seeing a need for higher education facilities in the area, began planning for a university that would include a school of mines. In 1870, he opened the Jarvis Hall Collegiate School in a building just south of the town of Golden. In 1873, Mines opened under the auspices of the Episcopal Church and in 1874 the School of Mines became a territorial institution and has been a state institution since 1876 when Colorado attained statehood.

Jarvis Hall

Jarvis Hall and School of Mines

Bishop George M. Randall

Bishop George M. Randall

The first Colorado School of Mines Board of Trustees meeting was held in 1874, the first formal commencement for two graduates was held in 1883, the first international student graduated in 1889, and the first female student graduated in 1898.

Courses offered to students during the early years of Colorado School of Mines included chemistry, metallurgy, mineralogy, mining engineering, geology, botany, math and drawing. The focus of the early academic programs was on gold and silver, and the assaying of those minerals. As the institution grew, its mission expanded to focus specifically on understanding the Earth, harnessing energy and sustaining the environment.

For additional Mines history, see the catalogs, yearbooks, pictures, building plans and unpublished histories housed in the Wood Archives on the lower level of Mines’ Arthur Lakes Library, 1400 Illinois St.