The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree was the general sentiment of my roommates when I came out my bedroom wearing a wolverine foamhead, bright maize tights underneath blue shorts, and my face covered in block M tattoos for our first home football game in the Big House. It was only the week before the first game that my father had driven me 2,500 miles from San Francisco, CA all the way up State Street for my South Quad move-in . During the final leg of our road trip he hung his USC flag out of the passenger window to display his immense pride for his alma mater with the expectation that I would soon be following his lead by displaying the same amount of pride for my own university. So even before we reached the dorm he took me directly to the Michigan bookstore to purchase my very own Michigan flag.
As you may notice from this one example, I was raised by a fanatic and very passionate University of Southern California alum who, by example, instilled the importance of being a lifetime supporter of your alma mater. His support takes many unique forms, some forms more unusual than the standard annual gift (granted giving was always a huge part of how he showed support). While I have not yet taken up his more eccentric forms of support like naming his dog and youngest son ‘Troy’ after the USC mascot, installing the USC fight song as both his doorbell and car horn sound, or administering daily quizzes to his four children on the names of his alma mater’s seven Heisman trophy winners, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and other famous USC alumni, I did however learn to express a similar passion for my Michigan Wolverines as a student, and even more so now as I have transitioned into a Michigan alum.
After competing and working at many other Division I universities across the nation (I am slightly bias), I have not seen a stronger bond than the one that exists amongst the members of the Michigan family. Wherever you go in the world, you will find support, camaraderie, and shared memories with fellow Michiganders. Not a week goes by without seeing a stranger on the street wearing maize and blue or a block M igniting a friendly “Go Blue” shout between the two of us. This kind of unique global community is one of the very reasons it is so easy to give back. Every member of the Michigan family has some special tie that keeps he or she connected, whether that be a particular building on campus, or a professor who inspired you, an athletics team you followed, a club you partook in – each special tie motivates us to make those groups continue to grow through both our much needed financial and moral support.
For me, there was no greater bond than the one I developed with my team of young women. We trained over 40 hours every week together with both the responsibility and privilege to go out across the nation and represent the University of Michigan in competition. There is something very powerful about wearing that block M in an intercollegiate athletic competition because when you lose a game, you don’t just lose the game for yourself, but you lose it for the entire Michigan community and likewise when you win, its a victory for the over 500,000 Michigan alumni, students, family and friends. This university has so many amazing facets that makes it such a great educational institution. The athletic tradition is one of many traditions that brings the community back together (Where else do 110,000 Michigan fans meet on one given day in the same space and the same time?). These are the kind of traditions that continue to remind us even after we leave that we will need to continue cheering and supporting the same team, whether that team be women’s water polo, the marching band, the School of Art and Design, Mott’s Children Hospital, you name it – they all need our love.
Now, by virtue of my current position at the University of Virginia, I do have to have to wear orange and blue cavalier gear every now and then, but my coworkers, friends, and family all know that you may be able to take the girl out of Michigan, but you can’t take the Michigan out of the girl. Forever will I bleed maize and blue.