Dixie State’s “D” on the hill gets full-color makeover
For more than 100 years, Dixie State University’s 100-foot tall by 75-foot wide “D” on the black hill has represented far more than just a large initial on a ridge. Born from a rivalry among the classes of 1913, 1914 and 1915, this historic symbol stands for unity, unwavering pride in the university and the promise of our growth as a community well into the future.
And now, it also will provide a colorful way to alert the Dixie community about key DSU happenings and special occasions. That’s because Dixie State University’s historic “D” just got a makeover. University leaders wanted to add a little color to this important community fixture, so the century-old “D” now has a new lighting system fully equipped with a variety of color-changing options.
“D” lights will change for the special occasions well known and celebrated by the community and will also match with the University Clock Tower lighting. Selected occasions include:
- New Year’s Day
- Valentine's Day
- St. Patrick’s Day
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Pioneer Day
- Veteran’s Day
“D” light colors will also change for key DSU events including the first day of the fall and spring semesters, commencement, and home athletic wins for football and basketball.
Whether illuminating the night sky with its traditional, bright white glow or adding some vibrant colors to alert residents about special occasions, Dixie’s iconic “D” will always remind us of our cherished university and all that we collectively continue to achieve.
For more information about the history of the “D” on the black hill
According to alumnus Mathew Bentley’s account, preserved in DSU’s Special Collections and Archives, students in the class of 1913 painted “1913” in large, white numerals on the Sugarloaf (Dixie Rock) in 1912. Not to be outdone, the students graduating in ’14 covered the “3” on the prominent landmark with red paint and replaced it with a white “4.” The rivalry continued with the year’s last digit changing every few days. After the class of ’13 graduated, the class of ’15 took their place in the showdown, and, as time went on, antics escalated until an actual fistfight broke out between the classes.
Resolved to end this competition, student body officers and school administrators proposed replacing a specific year on the Sugarloaf with the word “Dixie” and constructing a large “D” on the black hill. After faculty secured approval to do so, civil engineer Leo A. Snow began tackling the project, single-handedly laying stones to form the outline of the “D,” Bentley recounts. Twelve boys from the class of 1915, including Bentley, joined in the preparation efforts. In three weeks, the teens repaired an abandoned trail, which was built on the hill in the 1870s to accommodate the teams of horses that would pull wagons loaded with buckets of lime and water up the hill to the site of the “D.”
To construct the “D,” students took advantage of the hill’s ample supply of large lava rocks, moving the heavy stones into the border Snow had established. After this was competed, the boys gave the new emblem a finished look by applying two coats of whitewash to it.
This practice of covering the “D” with 200 gallons of whitewash each D-Week has stayed relatively consistent over the years. To make this possible, the St. George Fire Department fills six or seven 32-gallon garbage cans with water while members of the X-Club carry bags of lime to the iconic landmark and adds them to the water early in the morning. Then, all those gathered on the hillside, usually a group of students, faculty, staff and alumni, work together to apply a coat of whitewash to the “D” after singing the school song.
For more information about the “D” lighting system
Since 1942, when the City of St. George started producing municipal power, the “D” has lit the night sky. Initially illuminated by floodlights, the “D” received a facelift in 2004 and upgraded to a lighting system similar to the technology used for the Olympic rings at the 2002 games in Salt Lake City.
After seeing the lighting system used at the Olympics, student leaders worked to bring that concept to Dixie for the “D” lights. Thanks to the City of St. George’s support and the efforts of the student body and Dixie administrators, the “D” was outlined with fluorescent light bulbs at 5-foot increments.
And now, it’s gone full color! In the past, when Dixie State students wanted a red “D” in celebration of Homecoming or D-Week, they had to physically trudge up to the “D” and manually place a red bag over each of the 150 individual lights. Now, thanks to technology and a committed group of “D” devotees, colors can change from anywhere at the mere push of a button.
The latest upgrade included replacing each of the jar light fixtures in the existing structure with fluorescent lights with programmable LED lamps. This new system was wired with a router installed, so the lights could be changed remotely.