Like their professors, DU students were remarkable for their intense school pride and enduring spirit. Despite how small the Seminary was when it first opened, student life in the early days was vibrant. Collectively known as the Parsons or Fighting Ministers long before becoming the Pioneers, students participated in Biblical studies, oratorical debates, art shows, sporting events, Glee club, literary societies and much more.
When the school first opened as the Colorado Seminary in 1864, 103 students attended. The University reopened in 1880 with a body of 150. By 1889, enrollment had reached 665. When it reopened, the university offered only two degrees: a Bachelors of Arts and a Bachelors of Science. Required courses for the B.A included science, a year of German, two terms of French, Moral Philosophy, Christian Evidences, Political Economy, and Logic. The B.S. program emphasized physics but also required German, French, and Anglo-Saxon Grammar. Students had to ask for special permission to deviate from the curriculum. The classes students took were not the lecture-based environment we are familiar with today. Special lectures were sponsored by the school and offered to the public at no charge, but in class, students simply recited their lessons to professors.
The graduating class of 1884 consisted of a single student – John Hipp – the first student to graduate from the University of Denver. A graduate of Denver East High School, Hipp approached chancellor David Hastings Moore and asked for assistance to attend the university. Chancellor Moore, impressed by his determination, offered him a custodial position at the University in lieu of tuition. By his final year in the program, Hipp was teaching Greek and Latin to preparatory school students. In 1884, Bishop Warren presented him with a Bachelor of Arts diploma and led the audience in a clever cheer: “Hipp Hipp Hurrah!”