Did You Know?: Hello Walk
March 31, 2015
The Hello Walk consists of the sidewalks across Memorial Mall and along its perimeter. Plaques at either end of the east-west sidewalk between University Hall and Stewart Center encourage pedestrians to "smile and say hello to everyone you meet." (Purdue University photo/Matt Thomas)
At either end of the east-west sidewalk between University Hall and Stewart Center, plaques that encourage pedestrians to "smile and say hello to everyone you meet" harken back to a tradition as old as Purdue itself.
Called the Hello Walk, the sidewalks across the mall and along its perimeter are a modern version of a tradition that began in 1893, according to a paper written by David Hovde, associate professor of library science.
Back then, the Hello Walk referred to a hemlock-trimmed pathway from University Hall to State Street, near the oval that would become Memorial Mall. Students, faculty and staff even then were encouraged to perpetuate the University's friendly spirit and say hello to those they passed there.
As the University grew, the oval became a focal point for campus gathering and greeting, including 1870s field days and interclass competitions and early 20th-century commencement ceremonies and May Day activities, according to a 1998 Perspective article.
The Hello Walk tradition lapsed periodically during this time, but was revived by student councils in 1923 and 1965, according to Hovde's paper.
In 1958, according to Perspective, sidewalks were installed across Memorial Mall; previously, they had only traversed its perimeter. The Hello Walk, including plaques, was considered to include the new sidewalks.
In 1998, the entire Memorial Mall, including the Hello Walk, was refurbished with new sidewalks. The plaques were briefly placed in storage during the renovation work, but later returned to their current location.