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ESF Traditions Have Deep Roots

At ESF, we have a unique opportunity to steer our world toward a sustainable future – a mission we pursue through academic work in the community, on campus, and by honoring our legacy dating back to 1911. The College’s rich history and spirit are most carried by the students who have upheld its traditions for generations.

One example is keeping the Quad free of trampled dirt paths. Students – known as Mighty Oaks – do this by avoiding cutting across the Quad. If you must get from one side to the other and want to avoid the sidewalk, tradition states you are to gleefully do so while skipping, preferably with your head held high and a smile on your face. Of course, the Quad is for students’ enjoyment, and you’ll see them playing Frisbee, having lunch, or just lounging in the sun.

If you prefer sitting in the shade, check out  another time-treasured tradition at ESF - the Robin Hood Oak, which grows behind Bray Hall. As legend states, the tree grew from an acorn obtained from the Major Oak in England’s Sherwood Forest – the very oak that gave cover to Robin Hood and his merry men. The tree was the first to be listed on the National Register for Historic Trees in the United States.

Speaking of oaks, the school mascot – Oakie the Acorn – is consistently a contender in SUNY's Mascot Madness, which pits mascots from SUNY’s 64 institutions against each other in a popularity contest. In 2017, Oakie was crowned champion and since then has made it to the Final Four and championship round multiple times. Come March, you’ll see “Vote for Oakie" posters and calls on social media to show your support for our beloved mascot. Oakie’s been known to pop up around campus and when you see them, you have to give them a high five!

Equally treasured is ESF's Earth Week celebration. As an environmental school, we believe that the Earth’s celebration is worthy of an entire week, not just a day! All of the festivities are planned by students to celebrate our planet and call attention to environmental and social justice issues. Activities include tie-dying, playing games, gardening, hiking, and so much more. The week ends with Quadstock, a mini festival featuring live music, food, and good vibes on the Quad.

The Quad may also be the place students catch a glimpse of Eustace B. Nifkin, ESF’s “unofficial” student who has been “attending” campus events and classes since the 1940s. His adventures and identity are based on the lore submitted by students, ever-changing but always with nature in mind, much like ESF's inspiring student body. It’s not uncommon for Eustace to drop a postcard or email to the folks in the Moon Library to let campus know where his ESF background has taken him. No portrait of him has yet been found, though he’s had the back of his head appear in several editions of the yearbook. This campus legend provides a bit of levity for students amongst the classes, labs, and papers, and gives students and alumni a common touchstone.

ESF has many other traditions we love to celebrate, which can be found here. Each one highlights ESF’s commitment to improving our world while bringing the campus community closer together and fueling our pride in ESF.

By Landon Debes, writing intern in ESF’s Office of Communications and Marketing.