Story by Courtney Scoby, Staff writer
One of Murray State’s most recognizable traditions is beginning a new chapter in the new year. Over Winter Break, the famous shoe tree was taken down and relocated.
“The previous shoe tree was taken down in 1999,” Adrienne King, vice president of Marketing and Outreach, said. “The tradition now continues with the new shoe tree located on the Quad outside of the library.”
The shoe tree is one of Murray State’s most beloved traditions.
“It is considered to be good luck for two people who meet at Murray State and marry to return to campus to nail one of their shoes to the tree to represent their love,” King said.
Even though the shoe tree tradition is well-known on campus and in the community, there is not as much information on the tradition as might be expected.
“There is limited documentation of this celebrated campus tradition, but based on what we have been able to find the tradition started around 1965,” King said.
In fact, it is still up for debate how this tradition got started in the first place.
“There are several rumors about how it started, including as a student art project, the result of a student moving out of their residence hall and not wanting to take their shoes home, and my personal favorite, as a way to illustrate the devotion of love between two people who met on campus,” King said.
The recent relocation of the shoe tree is nothing new.
“The new shoe tree is believed to be the third or fourth tree since the tradition started,” King said.
However, the decision to relocate the shoe tree is never made lightly and is only made as a last resort.
“The previous tree became a safety concern as the limbs began to fall,” King said. “University officials made the decision to take down the tree to prevent any possible injuries.”
Not only was the decision to relocate the tree made for the safety of students, but to help protect what is left of the tree as well.
“It should be noted that the new tree was also dying,” King said. “Facilities staff worked to trim the tree and seal any injuries before moving the shoes in an effort to extend the life of the tree.”
Arden Mynatt-Stafford, a recent Murray State graduate, as well as one of the first individuals to make use of the new tree, with her husband Colten Stafford, also a Murray State graduate, expressed concerns about the sustainability of the tradition.
“I was fine with the relocation of the shoe tree since the old shoe tree was very weak and unstable,” Mynatt-Stafford said. “However, the new shoe tree will also become weak and brittle over time just like the old shoe tree. That is why I believe the next shoe tree should be made out of something that will withstand time and the decaying process. Otherwise, we will have to keep relocating the shoe tree.”
Nevertheless, the shoe tree tradition is important to the couple.
“It is cool that we can leave our mark on Murray State campus and partake in a very well-known MSU tradition,” Stafford said.
Looking to the future, Murray State officials are making sure that the history of the shoe tree tradition is well-documented from this point forward.
“The university is currently gathering stories from shoe owners for a new series called Racer ‘Sole’ Mates which will be shared next month,” King said. “These stories will also be maintained in the Sid Easley Alumni Center for future generations.”