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A Tradition of Making Waves

Elmira College has always been an institution that seeks to help students achieve their goals through a strong foundation in the liberal arts and sciences. But it’s no secret that we also do things a little differently around here.

Founded in 1855, Elmira was the first college for women with a course of study equal in rigor to the best men’s colleges. And in 1969, we officially became a coeducational institution. That tradition of being not-so-traditional has been carried through to the present day: Elmira utilizes a distinct three-term academic calendar that lets students learn and grow in ways not found at other instiutions.

But that’s not to say that we don’t have our own unique traditions at EC. With a history as rich as ours, we’ve created plenty of memorable and important campus traditions that bring our community together every year.


The Story of Elmira

Founded in 1855, Elmira College is where leaders come to learn. Elmira holds an important place in history as one of the four “Pillars of Access” to American Higher Education, along with Harvard, Dartmouth, and Cornell.

Learn more about our history as one of the great small colleges of the nation.

Discover Elmira's History



Campus Traditions

Purple and gold colors. A competitve athletic spirit. Our “Alma Mater” song. Traditions such as these help connect the Elmira community. We’re proud of our legacy, and we look forward to seeing students forge new traditions to share with the next generation of leaders.


Students chant as part of the annual Mountain Day tradition

Mountain Day

On Mountain Day, classes are canceled and students and faculty participate in fun campus events and outdoors activities. This annual fall event has been celebrated at Elmira since 1918.

Holiday Banquet

The Holiday Banquet and Ball is the College’s oldest tradition. This festive event is a semiformal affair. The banquet begins a weekend of traditional holiday festivities, and the ball is held on the following evening.

Some participants are pictured at the annual Holiday Banquet and Ball
Some college employees are dressed up for the Octagon Fair

Octagon Fair

The Octagon Fair is a fun homecoming celebration that welcomes students, faculty, administrators, alumni, and families to participate in a variety of activities such as crafting, pony rides, cultural food, and so much more.


One of our most cherished traditions at Elmira is Candlelight. This two-night ceremony is held every fall as part of the first-year orientation and then again on the eve of Commencement for that class four years later.

Students participate in the annual Candlelight tradition


Get an Up-Close Look at Traditions at Elmira


Fun Facts about Elmira

Mark Twain wrote his masterpieces in Elmira, just a few miles from our campus. His wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens, was a member of the Class of 1864.
We were the first college founded to offer women a course of study equal in rigor to the finest men's colleges of the nation.
Founded in 1855, we are more than 150 years old. (We became co-ed in 1969.) Eight buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places
We received our Phi Beta Kappa charter in 1940; Elmira is one of only 268 colleges and universities in the United States to have a charter from the prestigious honor society. The chapter has won the Triennial Award for the best chapter in the United States at a liberal arts college.

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