The small high school I attended, boasting a mere 125 students, was a college-prep school, which meant students studied hard to get into a good university.
School spirit was never really part of the program. Few spectators showed up to cheer at the sporting events. There were no pep rallies, no football team. The boys’ basketball team always lost more games than it won. Girls’ sports consisted only of basketball and volleyball. When asked my high school’s name, I whispered it under my breath.
From there, I attended a technological university for my undergraduate education. It was a commuter school, and most students held part- or full-time jobs to pay for their classes. School was more a means to an end than a way of life. The only sports team was club hockey. When bored, we trudged over to the city ice rink to watch the games. The team had an acceptable record, and I even knew a few players, but the games offered little more than a way to kill time. Just like my high school, my college had no school spirit.
Then I arrived at the University of Michigan for graduate school. I could not believe what I saw. Maize and Blue was everywhere. I had never seen so much color in support of a school. Everyone, it seemed, owned a blue shirt with a maize Block M. Or a maize shirt with blue “Michigan” lettering. Or Maize and Blue sweat pants. Or a Michigan baseball cap. Whatever the apparel, they all wore something in support of the University.
Likewise, stores with Maize and Blue signs had names like Michigan Book and Supply and Wolverine Party Shoppe. If a store was not painted Maize and Blue, it sold Maize and Blue items. Even the restaurants had Maize and Blue offerings on their menus. I remember the Maize ’n Blue Awning at the Maize and Blue Deli. The garbage trucks were Maize and Blue. Everywhere I looked—Maize and Blue.
As someone who had never experienced school spirit, I was overwhelmed. Then one day, a student dressed in a Maize and Blue track suit boarded the Maize and Blue bus I was riding. He was so tall he had to bend over so his head wouldn’t hit the ceiling. The whole bus quieted, and I heard someone whisper “Fab Five.” He was one of Michigan’s basketball superstars. Shivers went down my spine. I was excited to be on the bus with that Maize and Blue athlete, and I was not sure why.
Later, I stood on the Block M in the Diag and sensed the spirit of alumni past, present, and future. Though the surface was a dull metallic gray, I could feel the Maize and Blue shining through. I felt the pride and dedication of those alumni. I realized I was a part of that tradition that included spirit, enthusiasm, and devotion.
I felt that same spirit at my first U-M football game, crowded into Michigan Stadium with 100,000 (give or take a few thousand) football fans—an entire city’s worth of people sporting Maize and Blue. The spirit in the stadium was buzzing and leaping about, trying to infect me. It was impossible to resist, and soon I was clapping, cheering, and singing “The Victors” along with everyone else.
Later, I stood on the Block M in the Diag and sensed the spirit of alumni past, present, and future. Though the surface was a dull metallic gray, I could feel the Maize and Blue shining through. I felt the pride and dedication of those alumni.
Naturally, it was time to purchase my first Maize and Blue T-shirt. Then I bought one for my brother as well as a Maize and Blue cheerleading outfit for my niece and a Michigan sweatshirt for my mom. Soon, every member of my family had an item or two of Michigan apparel in our wardrobes.
The spirit did not stop there. When I read about Michigan’s high academic rankings, I thought with pride, “That is my school; one of the best in the nation.” I told everyone I knew about the great university I was attending—how the education was top notch, the students and faculty were friendly and genuine, and the spirit of the school rang throughout the city.
Anywhere I go, I look for Maize and Blue, whether it’s at the mall, the grocery store, my mother’s home in Florida, or on vacation in another state or country. When I find Maize and Blue, and I usually do, I know that I am among friends.
Kelly Daly Flynn, PhD’98, is operations excellence director at Ascent Aerospace. She enjoys competitive walking, her rose garden, and learning everything under the sun.