University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

Annotated Boulder

UVM Boulder
UVM Boulder, photograph by Sally McCay


Annotated Boulder


UVM’s prize gray-granite sphere was formed by tumbling along a river bed, landing in a deep pothole, then spinning into a round shape through the collective forces of water, rock, and time. George Davis, UVM’s twenty-second president and a geologist, once broke down the particulars of the boulder’s mineral content: quartz and feldspar with some muscovite mica, magnetite, and garnet.


Crews laying track in West Hartford for the Central Vermont Railroad in 1847 discovered the perfectly round boulder. A Dartmouth geology professor initially had his eye on the specimen, and it took the intervention of Vermont Governor Charles Paine to keep the rock on this side of the river. Eventually it was set on a big-wheeled wagon and carted up to Burlington for the inspection of UVM’s Zadock Thompson, Vermont’s premier natural historian. The boulder was placed on its granite pedestal in front of Old Mill in 1908.


While Professor Thompson appreciated the rock’s mineral attractions, President Matthew Buckham saw symbolism in the orb, giving physical form to the mission of the university to “transform the unversed into the well-rounded.”  When UVM’s senior men’s honorary society (among the oldest in the nation) was formed in 1905, they took the boulder as their emblem. The Boulder Society would act as a conduit between the student body and the administration and later started the Student Government Association.

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