Changes to Murray State’s ‘sole’ mate tradition

A unique tradition is changing at a local university. The Shoe Tree at Murray State University is coming down during Christmas break, but the school is still keeping this tradition alive.

Murray State University Marketing and Outreach Vice President Adrienne King says they started doing some research at the university and discovered that there really hasn’t been a centralized place to track the history of the shoe tree.

She says to the best of their knowledge the shoe tree has been around since about 1965. They’re not sure how it started, but there are rumors.

“That it was an art project for some students. It’s been said there was a student who collected shoes, and when they graduated they didn’t want to take them with them so they nailed them to a tree,” King said.

King’s favorite story is the one most people know.

“For two individuals who go to Murray State, fall in love here and get married —If they come back and put their shoes on the tree, it will bring them a lifetime of love and happiness,” King said.

It’s the second shoe tree. Both trees have been struck by lightning, and this one is coming down because of safety reasons.

“They actually filled it with cement to help prolong the life of the tree," King said.

The new tree is considered terminal and has gone through what’s called a bobbing process —cutting off its limbs to allow it to live longer than it would’ve. That was done to continue the tradition, starting with a new couple: Corey Smith and Courtney Sullivan.

"We met our sophomore year," Smith said.

They said they’re the first new couple to put their shoes on the new tree. They nailed the shoes during their engagement photos.

"There’s obviously no room over there. I was like, ‘There’s a tree right beside it. Why don’t we just start a new one? Like, keep an old tradition and start a new tree,’” Sullivan said.

It’s important to them because Courtney’s parents also met at MSU.

“We’re actually getting married here in a couple weeks, on New Year’s Eve. So, we’re saying ‘I do’ right at midnight,” Sullivan said.

It’s a special memory similar to other couples that MSU wants to start documenting.

Kind said the alumni office is going to be in charge of keeping a memory book moving forward.

“So we’ve reached out and asked folks if they could send us their love stories of how they met, why they brought their shoes back. We’re going to document those in a memory book,” King said.

King said it will eventually become part of the university archives.

“(We’re doing this) so that, moving forward, as folks put their shoes on the tree, they can go over to the alumni house and  document it for us. And that will be a living tradition at Murray State University,” King said.

If you have a story you’d like to share for a sole-mates series planned for February or Murray State’s archives in general, you can send pictures and a description to

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