The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

A look into the history of our school’s color

Vincentian Voice

Given an almost unlimited palette of colors to choose from, why did St. John’s University choose red as its identifying color? Well, the first answer is that it didn’t. The original choice had been maroon (and white) until the term of Very Rev. John W. Moore, CM, the seventh president of the university (1906-25). 

Ultimately, I posed this question regarding red to our University Archivist Dr. Blythe E. Roveland-Brenton, who provided me with the answer and data. Before I consulted her, however, I considered why I might choose red for our color.  Why might you?

A first reason involves the connection of red with the Holy Spirit. In the Christian celebrations of Pentecost and Confirmation—with the focus on the gift of the Spirit—red is the dominant color. 

The redness of fire and flame characterizes Pentecost and prompts the association. Energy for mission emerges. 

The particular gifts of wisdom and understanding as bestowed by the Spirit become apparent and mark the character of an institution of higher learning such as our St. John’s. Red makes sense from the point-of-view of the enlightening and enlivening Spirit of God.

Red also finds close association with the heart and its satellites: love, mercy and compassion. 

On the seal of the University, a heart sits in the right lower quadrant. This image represents the charitable and caring heart of St. Vincent de Paul. St. John’s was founded with the mind and spirit of this good man in view. 

Those who come here for a solid education must also learn something about the needs of the less fortunate in our society and the way in which warm and gentle hearts can provide an incomparable service. This should characterize an SJU education and be symbolized by our affection for red.

Finally, red is the color identified with blood. In the Christian liturgy, red is the color of martyrs and the passion of Christ. Those who have shed their blood for what is most important to them and society evoke our admiration and emulation.  

This last explanation points to the published reason why SJU favors red. Fr. Moore selected this color because St. John the Baptist suffered martyrdom for his faith. You may remember the story. John opposed King Herod on a question of what is proper for a marriage. Refusing to compromise his message or soften his presentation of the truth, John was beheaded.  He becomes a model for the person who sticks to their beliefs and accepts the consequences. Once again, one can see how this would be a valuable sentiment with which to describe SJU and its students.

In truth, I would be satisfied with any of these explanations for the color red and its symbolism for our University. Each captures a value for an institution where we seek to train students who can be faithful witnesses to what is true, men and women who act with compassion and people who value learning and wisdom. Red is our color.

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