St. John’s Traditions

St. John’s College is a place where students study the works of history’s greatest thinkers. Students in Annapolis and Santa Fe have established traditions that date back decades or longer, from signing the college register during their first day on campus to taking part in “senior prank” days before graduation. Students, called “Johnnies,” enjoy many of the same activities as their predecessors from years past. Learn more about our college history.

Watch how a Johnnie Chair—a St. John’s College icon—can transform lives. And look for more information about these chairs below.


St. John’s faculty members are called “tutors,” who lead classes across the liberal arts curriculum. Instead of serving as content experts or lecturers, tutors guide discussion and act as model learners.

Funeral Games

In Santa Fe, freshmen celebrate the completion of their first reading—the Iliad—with the Funeral Games. After finishing Homer’s epic, toga-clad Johnnies reenact the glorious contests at the funeral of Patroclus, including tug-of-war, wheelbarrow races, and more.

Convocation and Signing the Register

The entire freshman class and new Graduate Institute students are part of Convocation, during which each of them signs the college register, shakes the president’s hand and receives a book to be used in class.

Ptolemy Stone

A Ptolemy Stone is an ancient device for measuring the angle of the sun compared to the earth, which is the basis for many navigational devices such as the sextant. A Ptolemy Stone is located on both campuses.

Waltz Parties

Both campuses enjoy active Waltz Committees. These dance enthusiasts hold dance lessons and host waltz parties, featuring many different themes. Lessons are held regularly and may include swing, waltz, polka, lindy hop and other styles depending on the time of year.

Prizes (for essays and others)

At the end of the year, prizes are awarded to an annual essay from each class (freshman, sophomore, junior and senior) as well as to original translations, original scientific experiments, original poetry, original artwork and original mathematics proofs.

Senior Prank

At the end of every school year, seniors perform skits, show videos and host an all-day cookout and party on campus. 


Each spring on the Santa Fe campus, students will challenge other classes to softball games. There is also a faculty/staff vs. student softball game.

Senior Oral

After seniors have submitted their essays, they each have an oral examination with three members of the faculty using their paper as the foundation. This is a public event; friends, family, peers, coworkers, and even people from town can come and observe this hour-long oral exam.


Indoor soccer with a slightly smaller ball, futbalito is played just about daily on the Santa Fe campus, and there is usually at least one tournament each year.


Aside from being one of the college’s unofficial mascots, axolotls live in the laboratories on both campuses, where they are observed in association with some of the readings of freshman lab.


For this tradition, students read aloud either the Odyssey or the Iliad (typically alternating each year) throughout the day, starting in the morning and ending late at night.

The Swing

Halfway up Monte Sol on the Santa Fe campus, Johnnies for years have taken in a beautiful view from a wooden swing hung from a tree.


A party held the weekend after the last full week of classes each year, Reality features skits, videos, dancing and a general party atmosphere. Sports, including Spartan Madball, also are played.


Tutors and seniors in Santa Fe often gather for Nabla, a tradition meant to ease the transition to adulthood and the professional ranks.


Students, staff and faculty on each campus are assigned to an intramural sports team. The teams play each other in multiple sports, including Ultimate Frisbee, soccer, basketball, “reasonball,” handball and volleyball.


This sports league in Annapolis was founded and named by some of the women of St. John’s. Women and non-cis gendered polity members can participate in Kunai and intramural sports.

Athletic Blazer

Athletic blazers with the St. John’s seal are awarded to students based on participation and performance. Special blazers are also passed down to two individual rising seniors each year, as voted on by the intramural and Kunai captains. In addition, two members of the graduating senior class are awarded a blazer at commencement for participation, leadership and sportsmanship.

Observing Plants

In the fall, members of freshman lab classes are often seen outside taking notes on and making sketches of local flora as part of their study of biology. In Annapolis, it’s the magnolia. In Santa Fe, where it is known as “conifer lab,” students travel to the ski basin and collect various samples, study them, draw them, and come up with a classification system for them.


Lola’s is a party held each year with a “casino” theme. Although there is no gambling with money, students dress in sharp outfits and play games of chance with volunteer dealers.


Cotillion is a spring formal hosted by the Waltz Committee after croquet on the Annapolis campus. Traditionally strawberries and cream are served at midnight, and a live band is hired. If the croquet team is victorious, team members typically make a grand entrance with the Annapolis Cup.

Catching Fish

During freshman lab, students observe fish as part of their study of biology. In Annapolis, freshmen often head down to College Creek armed with nets to catch fish for further observation in tanks in the classrooms.

Senior Day

Seniors often perform original music, or pieces that they feel are relevant to their class, for classmates and family before graduation.

Student Committee on Instruction

The Student Committee on Instruction (SCI) holds forums throughout the year on academic life at St. John’s, meeting with the faculty Instruction Committee at least once a year. The SCI also hosts the all-college seminar and hosts extracurricular seminar series.

Senior Dinner

A formal dinner is held each year for seniors and faculty members, at which the president, dean, faculty and multiple members of the senior class give toasts. A toast traditionally given at the dinner is a “toast to the four republics”—to the Republic of the United States of America, the Republic of St. John’s College, Plato’s Republic and the Republic of Letters.

Core Groups

A group of two to six students have every class together. Core groups often become good friends and rely on each other for academic support.

Take a Tutor to Lunch

The take-a-tutor-to-lunch program allows students to sign tutors into lunch on campus for free, whether the student is on the meal plan or not. Beyond the formal program, tutors and students will often meet for coffee or lunch off campus.

Welcome Parties: Achilles Rager and Black and White Ball

Parties to kick off the school year are held on each campus to welcome freshmen. In Santa Fe, there is the Black and White Ball and in Annapolis is the “Achilles Rager”—a nod to the rage of Achilles in Homer's Iliad.

Athenian Reasonball

Reasonball is like flag football with a lot of extra rules, including the fairness rule, which ensures that the losing team is always given possession after a score, no matter which team scores. Players can throw as many forward passes as they can, regardless of their proximity to the line of scrimmage.

Intramural Draft

On the Annapolis campus, an intramural draft is held each year in which rising sophomores are drafted to each intramural team.


Although the college does not have an official mascot, it does have a few unofficial ones—the most prominent being the axolotl and the platypus.

Guerilla Seminars

Small, often informally organized seminars on particular works are often held with a small group of students and no tutor, although sometimes a tutor will participate.