Hidden rocks spread joy through campus

Painted rocks with uplifting messages surprise students

When Vicki Kipfmueller learned about the Kindness Rock movement this summer, she knew she wanted to start one in the Marquette community. She learned about them over the summer and decided to hide them around campus for anyone to stumble upon.

So, if some of the rocks along sidewalks on campus look different than usual, it’s because they’ve been painted with bright colors and positive messages.

Between Kipfmueller’s father-in-law, a retired Marquette professor; her husband Jeff, a Marquette University Law School alumnus and the current senior associate general counsel; and her son, Spencer, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, Marquette seemed like the obvious place to spread some joy.

“I’m not an artsy person,” Kipfmueller said. “I just do it for fun.”

As an empty nester, Kipfmueller paints them in her free time. She buys the rocks from a landscape garden and uses regular craft paint and an outdoor sealant before hiding them on campus. As for inspiration, Kipfmueller looks online at different ideas and phrases. She encourages anyone to participate.

Kipfmueller calls the project, “Kindness Rocks.” She says it puts good vibes out there. Since the beginning of the semester, she has painted more than 300 rocks with different motivational phrases, corny jokes and friendly reminders to “call your mom.”

Another detail Kipfmueller adds to the rocks are her Instagram tag, @mu_rocks_1881, so that when someone finds a rock, they can reach out and follow along with the movement. After finding the rocks, some students have reached out with a nice picture or story about how the rock was appropriate to them in that moment, Kipfmueller said.

Taylor Gallop, a freshman in the College of Education, said she found a rock on a bench outside the AMU after going for a run. 

“I laughed, because it was pretty applicable since it said ‘breathe,’ and I was very out of breath,” Gallop said. 

Kipfmueller said some students have contacted her thinking she was part of a student organization.  

“Anyone can join the movement,” Kipfmueller said, “all you need is a sharpie and a rock.”

Some students have taken to creating their own rocks, including athletes on the men’s lacrosse team. Head coach Joe Amplo’s daughter did a similar project at her school, so Amplo decided to bring the activity to his team.

“So we basically just collected rocks, painted positive messages on them and then just put them in random places around campus,” Jared Hershman, a sophomore forward on the team, said. Hershman said painting the rocks is a team bonding activity meant to spread positivity around campus. 

The lacrosse team’s participation is exactly what Kipfmueller’s goal was all about: A small act of kindness that can hopefully brighten someone’s day.

CORRECTION: a previous version of this story reported that Vicki Kipfmueller’s husband was named as Jim. His name has been corrected to Jeff. The Wire regrets this error.