Heritage: Raise Your Hand and Spartan Up

A San Jose State tradition has taken shape, and it’s the shape of a Spartan.

Scott Pierson, Photo: David Schmitz

Kelvin Lam, Photo: David Schmitz

Now seen across campus, from athletic fields to classrooms, the “Spartan up” hand gesture is one more way to share our SJSU pride. On behalf of all Spartans, we thank those who have had a hand in creating it!

To accompany every football pre-game show, SJSU Marching Band Director Scott Pierson, ’72 Music, ’73 Teaching Credential, arranged the “Procession of the Spartans” in 1990. The song is “loud, in your face—ballsy,” he says, and it begged for audience participation. Pierson instructed band members, cheerleaders and fans to create a Spartan head with their fingers, which he sees as a representation of San Jose State.

Blake Sasaki named the gesture “Spartan up” nearly 20 years later. The senior associate athletics director of external relations says it communicates a sense of identity and pride that connects everyone from the 18-year-old freshman to the 80-year-old alumna. “It means to step up—get in the game,” says Sasaki. “Give back to your university. Be a leader in your community. Strengthen the bond between SJSU students and alumni, so that we are all one team.”

Cheerleading Head Coach Kelvin Lam, ’18 MBA, says that the “Spartan up” gesture is made more meaningful by the people who embrace it: “San Jose State itself is just a place. But it’s the things that you do in that place, the connections that you make, that give it all that extra meaning. It’s like trying to talk about what love means. You can put little hearts everywhere, but they don’t mean anything until you add a picture of a loved one. Then you realize that those hearts are special.”


Julia Halprin Jackson

Julia Halprin Jackson is a writer on San Jose State University's Strategic Communications and Marketing team.

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