What are the colors
of the University of Connecticut? As you
read those words, you probably didn't hesitate. Blue and white
are the colors of Connecticut.
And of course you are correct.
No need to quibble that the Alma Mater, also known as Old Connecticut refers
to "Our fairest White and Blue." Nor that in the Fight Song,
officially known as UConn Husky,
we sing for "vict'ry again for the White and Blue."
Whether Blue and White or White and Blue, we are certain of the colors.
But that hasn't always been true.
Whether blue and white or white and blue, we are certain of
the colors. But we haven't always been so sure just what shade
of blue is really UConn Blue.
A letter from a Pennsylvania law firm early in 1947 to Albert
N. Jorgensen, UConn's president, asked for "an authentic statement
concerning the origin of and the reasons for the selection of
the official colors of the University."
The reason for the request is not in the brief letter, but the
letter was passed along to Walter Stemmons, who headed the University's
publications department. Stemmons launched an "investigation,"
that he outlined in an article in the February/March 1947 issue
of the Connecticut Alumnus. He had received a variety of answers
from faculty and alumni. Andre Schenker, a professor of history
who had done considerable research for Stemmons' book on the
first 50 years of the University's history, offered a guess that the colors were adopted from the State Flag. Stemmons rejected
that idea, however, based on the description of the flag in
the State Register and Manual, which included a number of different
Several administrators and faculty suggested that the colors
had "always" been Royal Blue and white, although Leonard Riccio,
the university comptroller, responded that the colors were blue
and white, but not Royal Blue and white. His source: the color
of the corridor walls in Hawley Armory.
Stemmons also quoted several alumni who recalled that blue and
white were selected as the colors in the 1890s, when UConn was
Storrs Agricultural College.
Grace Snow Palmer Minor, one of the college's first women graduates
in 1896, wrote that the colors "were chosen when the name Storrs
Agricultural School was changed to Connecticut Agricultural
College," which would put the color selection in 1899. More
than 50 years after the fact, Stemmons reckoned, Ms. Minor was
referring to the renaming of the school as Storrs Agricultural
College - which occurred in 1893.
And that is corroborated by the recollections of other alumni
who corresponded with Stemmons:
Ethel Freeman, a classmate of Grace Minor, recalled that "In
1893-4-5 (sic) the college wished to adopt blue as its own color.
At that time - queer as it seems now - Storrs and Yale were
rivals for the state appropriations and some feelings - not
serious - existed between the two schools.
"In as much as blue was Yale's color, this college did not feel
that it had the right to use it alone so added the white," Freeman
John Fitts, Class of 1897, the college's first instructor in
engineering and first dean of the Division of Mechanical Engineering,
recalled that the colors "were chosen by the Students' Organization
in the year 1896 or 1897.
"Why the colors were chosen I do not know, but I believe that
'Blue Skies' and 'White Clouds' were mentioned at the meeting,"
Harry W. Potter of Glastonbury, Class of 1896, remembered in
a tersely written letter that it was a joint committee of students
and faculty who selected the colors:
"Recall that a Faculty-Student Committee was formed for the
purpose of selecting colors for the college either in 1893 or
1894, cannot recall date."
Based on those recollections, blue and white have been the colors
of the University since the mid-1890s, possibly as early as
1893. But that was not to be the end of the matter.
Ten months after the Stemmons article appeared, the UConn Alumnus
offered an addendum - first noting that on Alumni Day in June
1947, two members of the Class of 1887 "displayed a pair of
class badges that were unmistakeably (sic) a very light blue."
And it cited a book published in 1930, The Dictionary of Color,
which listed Connecticut Agricultural College's colors as "imperial
blue and white.
"Incidentally, imperial blue is a light blue, but darker than
Rhode Island's robin's egg blue."
Selecting a Shade
While Stemmons' fact-finding may have settled - as best as possible
- the origin of the colors, it would be five years before any
action was taken to make the colors official. That action may
have been prompted by the need to purchase new uniforms for
the University Band.
In a letter dated Oct. 6, 1952, President Albert N. Jorgensen
appointed a five-member special committee to "study the need
for official school colors." A review of the University's records
found that the colors were never officially accepted - and "by
official, we mean that it has not been acted upon by our Board
of Trustees," wrote committee chair J. O. Christian, then the
University's athletics director.
It didn't take long for the committee to investigate the matter.
Their letter of response with recommendations is dated October
21, just over two weeks after they were appointed.
Although their tenure was short, the committee did examine the
matter thoroughly. In a letter to President Jorgensen, written
by Christian on behalf of the committee, it is noted that the
group examined "55 shades of blue and found there were many
more." They examined the colors at the American Thread Co. in
Willimantic, under the supervision of ATCO's head chemist, Howard
The sweater presented to UConn athletes at the annual awards
program was taken to Corkrum, who matched the navy blue garment
with a standardized color known as "Homage Blue", listed as
#70078 in the Standard Color Card of America, at that time the
standard reference for colors.
But the committee recommended the University adopt a slightly
different shade, #70077, known as National Flag Blue, as the
blue in the Blue and White.
"There is little difference between the two shades and we felt
that the National Flag Blue would be better known than Homage
Blue," wrote Christian. He added that National Flag Blue is
"just a shade lighter than Homage Blue and according to Howard
Corkrum the Homage Blue is a little deeper and has a little
greener hue. Midnight Blue, the next shade, is a little more
red than the National Flag Blue."
So, National Flag Blue it was that the Board of Trustees approved
at their November 1952 meeting, when they finally adopted blue
and white as the colors of the University of Connecticut.
One paragraph in the Christian letter, however, set the stage
for a return of the "blues" over the next several decades.
"All three of these colors [National Flag, Homage, and Midnight]
could be used with the different uniforms and no one could tell
the difference unless you saw them side by side. It may be that
in picking a uniform for the band that the Midnight Blue or
the Homage Blue may be more practical than the National Flag
Blue. I doubt that anyone could tell the difference."
Neither the committee's recommendation nor the trustees' motion
included a standard for the colors, and by the late 1950s, the
shades of blue used in printing, uniforms, and University souvenirs
began to vary widely again.
It was not until the early 1980s that the issue of standardizing
the blue was again addressed. At that time, Tim Tolokan, director
of athletic communications, found there was a great degree of
variation in the use of colors and no "official" standard for
Tolokan's research re-discovered the trustee action of 1952
in which National Flag Blue was selected. Under modern color
standards, that translated to a shade known as PANTONE© 289.
A standard was set for the color - as well as for athletic logos
and their use.
No standards were set for non-athletic logos, however. That
task was taken up in 1996-1997 by University Communications,
which commissioned Peter Good and Janet Cummings, alumni of
the School of Fine Arts who have their own graphic design company,
to create a new visual identity for the University.
It had been found that using PANTONE© 289 was problematic, particularly
in print publications - National Flag Blue is so dark as to
be barely indistinguishable from black in some printing. For
the new standards, a slightly lighter shade of blue - PANTONE©
281 - was adopted as the new shade of blue in the visual identity
And to avoid the problems of the past in which variations became
the norm, a Graphic Standards and Guidelines Manual (on the
web at http://www.uconn.edu/info/logos.php was developed to assist anyone
who might again wonder, "what is UConn Blue?"
Of course, there is still the question of the White. Could be
Eggshell. How about Ivory? Maybe Off-White? Or is it just plain
Mark J. Roy
UConn's Blue and White almost became Orange and Black in the late 1920's. Read about it here.
Sources: UConn Alumnus, Vol. XXV, No. 2, "How Did The
University of Connecticut Get Its Colors?" by Walter Stemmons; News
Release #117A, Nov. 25, 1952, News Coordinator's Office; and various
correspondence found in the archived files of the Office of Public Information.
These items and others relating to UConn history are in the University
Archives of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.