History & Traditions

History of Tufts Alumni Association

Tufts University Alumni Association (TUAA) has been an integral part of the fabric of Tufts almost since the university’s founding. In fact the “Association of the Alumni of Tufts College” was formed in July of 1860, just four years after the college held its first commencement.

The idea of organizing alumni for the support of Tufts originated with William A. Johnson, Class of 1860, one of the four graduates representing the four classes that had so far received degrees. The group drafted a constitution and by-laws. When the second meeting was held a year later, the new association could boast 18 paid-up members. Their constitution stated that anyone who had received an A.B., M.A., D.D., or LL.D. was eligible for membership upon payment of $1. In 1887, membership was thrown open to all holders of Tufts degrees. One of the two vice presidents of the Alumni Association was Elmer Hewitt Capen who graduated in 1860 along with Johnson; Capen later became President of Tufts College, serving from 1875-1905.

By an amendment to the Tufts charter in 1934, an Alumni Council was formed "to take active control of alumni affairs and to organize the Tufts alumni of all departments into a more closely welded and more aggressive body." The primary responsibility of the Council was to facilitate the elction of Alumni Trustees, after the University’s Board of Trustees had decided that alumni could elect 10 trustees to the board. The then 21-member council, representing all divisions of the college, became the first integrated and truly coordinated body to administer alumni affairs. Since that time, with biennenial and now annual elections, the Tufts Alumni Council has grown to more than 300 members.

Today, with more than 100,000 graduates, the Tufts University Alumni Association continues to secure for Tufts University the strong and united support of its alumni. Through the Alumni Council and its volunteer committees, the organization has broad influence on programs and services for all Tufts graduates. All graduates of Tufts University (and most former students with at least one year of study) are automatically considered TUAA members.

If you are interested in reading more about Tufts’ history and the growth of the TUAA, please visit the Tufts Digital Library


Some Tufts Traditions


Jumbo, the famous Tufts mascot, met an untimely death after being a prime attraction of the far-flung entertainment empire built by Phineas T. “P.T.” Barnum, a famed showman and one of Tufts initial Trustees. Among his other gifts as a generous early benefactor, Barnum donated the funds for construction of the Barnum Museum. Upon Jumbo’s death, the skin was mounted and Jumbo was placed on permanent exhibition in the front foyer wing of Barnum Hall. Jumbo, along with extensive P.T. Barnum memorabilia remained there until destroyed by a fire in 1975.

The Tufts song

The Tufts song, “Dear Alma Mater,” was created by two Tufts Alumni, with words by D. L. Maulsby, A1887, and music by Leo R. Lewis, A1887.

Tufts Night at the Pops

Tufts Night at the Pops was inaugurated as an annual spring tradition over 100 years ago. It has long since been held on the Thursday evening preceding Commencement, as the event officially opening Commencement and Alumni Weekend festivities for alumni and graduating seniors. Tufts has the distinction of the oldest affiliation among Boston area schools with the Boston Pops for this tradition.


The Alumni Association donated the Mace that has been used to lead all Commencement processions since 1908. It is unusual in that the college seal, not ordinarily used on such objects, is included as the finial, or its crowning ornament.

The Top of the Hill Illumination Ceremony

To honor Charles Tufts, every incoming first-year student lights a candle on the President’s Lawn for their first night on campus. Tufts inherited Walnut Hill, where Tufts University now stands, and when asked what he planned to do with the plot, he replied, ”I will put a light on it.” A few enterprising souls always save their freshmen candles to re-use 4 years later at the Candlelight Ceremony.

The Commencement Candlelight Ceremony

The Candlelight Ceremony was initiated by the Tufts University Alumni Association in cooperation with the Office of Alumni Relations. This final event on Tufts Alumni Day is a candlelight procession capping the eve of Tufts Commencement Day where graduating Seniors are welcomed into the alumni body by reunion and non-reunion alumni.

Tuftonia’s Day

Tuftonia’s Day, originally created in the 1980s by the Office of Alumni Relations, is now a student-run and planned event (in collaboration with the Office of Alumni Relations), which is open to the entire Tufts community. It’s an annual Jumbo-sized birthday celebration commemorating the founding of Tufts University, and offers students and alumni the chance to showcase their school spirit.


A gift from the city of Medford and the Medford Historical Society, the Cannon, a fixture of the Medford campus, is located between Ballou Hall and Goddard Chapel. It is a replica of an original 24-pound cannon taken from the deck of the U.S.S. Constitution, "Old Ironsides." Since 1977, it has been used by student groups and individual students who paint messages on the cannon under the cover of night.

Gravity Stone

The Gravity Stone is located between Eaton Hall and Goddard Chapel. Roger W. Babson gave it to Tufts with a sizable donation which was meant for research in the field of gravity. The stone is made of solid granite and is estimated to weigh anywhere from 2,000 to 3,200 pounds. In 1962 a group of students and employees of Buildings and Grounds tested whether or not the stone itself would defy gravity by digging a large hole underneath the stone. Thus began a cycle of burying and digging up the stone which was continued for several years until the early 1980s.

If you would like to learn more about Tufts Traditions, please take the Virtual Tour on the Tufts Admissions website.

Alumni of Note

Tufts' more than 100,000 alumni have been active in a wide range of professions. Many are prominent on the national and international scene, but many more contribute to society outside the spotlight. The following is a far-from-comprehensive list of some of our distinctive graduates.

Hank Azaria, A88 Emmy Award–winning actor
John Bello, A68 Creator, SoBe drink products
Scott Brown, A81 US senator (R-Mass.)
Rob Burnett, A84 Emmy Award–winning producer, Late Show with David Letterman
Vannevar Bush, E1913, G1913, H32 Science adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt, helped direct the Manhattan Project; established the National Science Foundation, co-founded Raytheon
Tracy Chapman, J86 Grammy Award–winning singer and songwriter
Tsai Chin, G80 Actress
John Ciardi, A1938, H1960 Poet
Barbara Delinksy, J67 Best-selling novelist
Jeffrey Drazen, A68 Editor-in-chief, New England Journal of Medicine
Daniel Elias, Museum 85 Former host, Antiques Roadshow
Peter Gallagher, A77 Actor
Margaret George, J64 Best-selling historical novelist
Katherine Haley Will, J74 Former president, Whittier College and Gettysburg College (first woman for both)
Rick Hauck, A62 Astronaut, named to U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame
William Hurt, A72 Academy Award-winning actor
Marney Jaastad, J91 Silver medalist, World Rowing Championships
Richard Ketchum, A72 Former president, Nasdaq Stock Market, CEO NYSE Regulation
Lisa Lax, J86 Emmy Award–winning producer, NBC Sports
Bette Bao Lord, J59 Best-selling novelist
Michael McCurdy, Museum 64, G71 Book illustrator and author
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, A46, F49 Served four terms as a US senator (D-NY); leading university scholar; adviser to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford; US ambassador to India; US ambassador to the United Nations; former co-chairman of the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security
Pierre Omidyar, A88 Founder, revolutionary online auction site, eBay
Nicholas Paleologos, A75 Hollywood and Broadway producer (Quiz Show, Angels in America)
Oliver Platt, A83 Actor
William Richardson Jr., A70, F71, H97 Governor of New Mexico, former Secretary of Energy; former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
Wendy Selig-Prieb, J82 Former CEO, Milwaukee Brewers
Albert Simone, A57 Former president, Rochester Institute of Technology
Laura Denvir Stith, J75 Chief Justice, Missouri Supreme Court
Arthur Sulzberger, A74 Publisher, The New York Times
Alan Solomont, A70 Chairman and CEO of Solomont Bailis Ventures; nominated Ambassador to Spain
Neil Shapiro, A80 President, Thirteen/WNET, NYC
Anita Shreve, J68 Best-selling novelist
David Sutherland, A67 Award-winning documentary filmmaker (The Farmer's Wife)
Jonathan Tisch, A76 CEO and president, Loews Corp.
Steven Tisch, A71 Hollywood producer
Malcolm Toon, A37, F38, H77 Former ambassador, Yugoslavia, Czechoslavia, Russia; diplomat for seven presidencies
Nick Trotman, A94 Sailor; world championship in 1999
Peter Roth, A72 President, Warner Brothers TV
Elaine Ullian, J69 CEO and president, Boston Medical Center
Meredith Vieira, J75 Co-host, The Today Show, former CBS correspondent, former co-host of The View
Norbert Weiner, A09, H46 Graduated from Tufts at 15; mathematician; founder of the science of cybernetics
David Wiley, A89 Music director and conductor, Roanoke Symphony
Gordon Wood, A55 Pulitzer Prize–winning author, Radicalism of the American Revolution
Peter Wylde, A89 Silver medalist equestrian, 1999 Pan American Games