The Painted Legacy


Over the years, the campus has changed quite a bit. Yet, amidst this evolution, one constant has remained: “The Rock.” Positioned in the center of campus for more than 144 years, it stands as a steadfast symbol of tradition at UA.

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What most don’t realize is that UA is home to two separate rocks. The smaller of the two is the original rock, from the Class of 1879, whereas the larger rock is from the Class of 1880. The Class of 1880 wanted to outshine the Class of 1879, so they discovered a much larger rock that would do just that. Originally situated in West Akron on the farm of Col. Simon Perkins, son of Akron’s founder, Gen. Simon Perkins, “The Rock” found its way to campus.

However, its journey was far from simple. Transporting the massive boulder via wagon posed challenges, particularly when a bridge along the route was unable to bear its weight. This obstacle led to a delay until the bridge could be reinforced, allowing “The Rock” to
continue its journey.

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“The Rock” stood firmly for nearly eight decades, while the campus surrounding it changed. In September 1961, it was decided that the landmark stood in the way of progress, which led to its relocation. The move to its current location became inevitable with the construction of Zook Hall, which today houses the LeBron James Family Foundation School of Education.

Despite its enduring presence, “The Rock’s” appearance has undergone transformation over the decades. Various entities, including Greek life, student organizations and athletic teams, have contributed to its ever-changing appearance with a plethora of paint
colors and designs. You’ll find that beneath all the layers of paint, “The Rock” has “1880” engraved into it.

In 2013, a dedicated group of students from the Geoscience Club began a mission to restore the beloved rock. Amidst layers of paint, their efforts unearthed intriguing artifacts, such as a T-shirt and other memorabilia. Ironically, on the very day of its restoration unveiling, “The Rock” found itself adorned with fresh paint once again.

While things continue to change and evolve across campus, this landmark remains an enduring symbol that alumni of all ages can relate to and share fond memories of, serving as an unwavering reminder of their University experience.

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Affectionately known as ‘The Painted Rock’ by UA students, “The Rock” serves as a reminder of our shared history at UA. “It is a living canvas that has been shaped by the contributions of countless students and alumni over the years,” said Willy Kollman ‘08, ‘10, assistant vice president of alumni relations and executive director, the UA Alumni Association.

“I think it’s fascinating to consider that what many see as a single monument is actually a composite of two — a class rivalry turned into an ever-changing, colorful symbol of UA tradition.”

Some traditions are not meant to be broken, and painting “The Rock” is one that has endured at UA. 

Story by Bree Sabin