History and Traditions

Mission Statement

Provide an outstanding undergraduate residential education strengthened by important research, graduate and professional programs and a responsive distance learning network delivering programs throughout Arizona.


Northern Arizona University is a doctoral-research intensive university with its main campus in Flagstaff. The university's extended campus in Yuma shares a campus with Arizona Western College in Yuma, Arizona, and Northern Arizona University Distance Learning serves more than 6,000 students at 30 other sites throughout Arizona.

Our Values

  • Excellence in Education—Offer a rigorous, high-quality education to all students
  • Student Success—Place learner needs at the center of our academic and service planning, policies, and programs
  • Educational Access—Provide all qualified students with access to higher education
  • Diversity—Achieve multicultural understanding as a priority of educational and civic life
  • Integrity—Operate with fairness, honesty, and the highest ethical standards to sustain a community of trust
  • Civility—Support a civil, engaging, and respectful campus climate

 Our Goals  

  • Strengthen undergraduate educational excellence in a residential learning community 
  • Increase and manage enrollment 
  • Strengthen graduate education, economic development, and research 
  • Build on our national reputation for excellence in professional programs 
  • Provide leadership in the development, use, and assessment of technologies in educational programs 
  • Foster a culture of diversity 
  • Become the nation’s leading university serving Native Americans 
  • Ensure financial stability and growth

History and Traditions


On January 16, 1899, N.O. Murphy, governor of the Territory of Arizona, recommended that the unused territorial building erected in Flagstaff in 1893, be put to use as a normal school. Henry Ashurst, Coconino County Representative to the Legislature, introduced House Bill 44 on February 6, 1899 which authorized the establishment of the Northern Arizona Normal School. 

The first term began September 11, 1899, under the direction of Professor A.N. Taylor with Miss Frances Bury assisting. Twenty-three students enrolled the following week. The first graduating class, in 1901, consisted of four women who received life certificates to teach in Arizona.

The school has undergone several name changes: in 1925 to "Northern Arizona State Teachers College"; in 1928 to "Arizona State Teachers College of Flagstaff"; and in 1945 to "Arizona State College of Flagstaff". In 1964, the Board of Regents approved university status for ASC. In May of 1966, the current name of "Northern Arizona University" was officially adopted. For a detailed history, involving old photographs, handbooks, catalogs, and yearbooks, contact the Special Collections Library.

Asian-Pacific American heritage celebrations

This set of celebrations sponsored by Asian-Pacific student organizations, focuses on Asian-Pacific heritage through various educational and cultural events. 

Black History Month

February is Black History Month. Sponsored by African-American student organizations, the month consists of performances, movies and lectures and is designed to make the university community aware of the contributions of African-Americans in the development of this country.

Family Weekend

This traditional fall event is dedicated to the parents and families of students. A wide range of activities, including receptions, live entertainment, a pre-game barbeque, a football game, casino night, a Sunday brunch, etc. are scheduled for this annual celebration.

Greek Week

Greek Week is a week of alcohol-free activities and philanthropy projects designed to celebrate the history, purpose, and accomplishments of fraternities and sororities. All money raised during the week is designated to local and national charities. The week is sponsored by the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils and includes fraternities and sororities teaming up to win various Greek Week Awards. 

Hispanic heritage celebrations

Sponsored by Hispanic student organizations, this set of celebrations focus on the Hispanic heritage through various educational and cultural events. 

Holiday Week
This festive week includes residence hall decorations, parties, and the beautiful luminaries that line the streets around campus. 
Homecoming has been an Northern Arizona University tradition since 1924 when it was named "Northern Arizona Normal School". This special event is a time to welcome alumni back to campus and to enjoy a week of activities. Activities include the annual bonfire and pep rally, (known as Traditions Day), Alumni Awards, the Homecoming Dedicatee banquet, the colorful Homecoming Day Parade, and the football game. 

Each Homecoming is dedicated to a faculty, administrator or staff member of the university who has demonstrated exceptional service to, and interest in, students. Selection of the Homecoming Dedicatee is made by a committee of students representing campus organizations. 

International Week/Festival

This program is sponsored by the International Association of Northern Arizona University (IANAU). Through the combined resources and talents of students enrolled at Northern Arizona University, IANAU provides a variety of cultural activities on campus. Students, faculty, staff and the Flagstaff community are invited to the events. 

Logging Wheels

The huge logging wheels, once used with horses to drag large logs out of the forest, are now used in the Homecoming parade. Historically, Chain Gang coordinates the logging wheels entry into parade each year and for the rest of the year they are anchored near the School of Forestry. 


The "Lumberjack" is the traditional mascot and has been used since 1915 as the name for the athletic teams. 

Native American heritage celebrations
Celebrations sponsored by Native American student organizations focus on Native American heritage through various educational and cultural events.