MURRAY, Ky. — For more than 50 years, the Shoe Tree at Murray State University has been a symbol of love throughout the campus community. Now, with the help of past and present Racers, the beloved Shoe Tree has spread its roots to encourage people across the globe to “Love Someone.”
Calloway County native and cinematographer Will Sampson recently filmed the Shoe Tree to appear in “Love Someone,” a music video for the Danish pop music group called Lukas Graham. A tradition since the late 1960s, Racer “sole” mates who meet on campus hang their shoes on the Shoe Tree, which is said to bring them a lifetime of good luck.
“I love the Shoe Tree tradition,” Sampson said. “I always thought it was a cool idea ever since I saw it as a young kid.”
While his director considered possible filming locations for “Love Someone,” Sampson suggested incorporating his family and friends in Murray into the video.
“The director really liked the idea,” Sampson said. “I then began reaching out to old classmates and friends. It all fell into place.”
Amid the excitement of sharing the Shoe Tree with the world, Sampson wanted the music video’s worldwide viewers to be just as captivated with Murray State’s unique tradition as members of the Racer family already familiar with its roots.
“To be honest, I thought using the Shoe Tree might not translate to an audience outside Murray,” Sampson said. “But as we were driving through Murray State, I mentioned it to the director and we pulled over to get a few shots. He loved the concept and story behind the Shoe Tree, and even as we filmed he said it would be the opening of the video.”
Since “Love Someone’s” Sept. 6 release, more than 22 million people have viewed the opening shot of the Murray State Shoe Tree. In a later close-up, viewers could read the names on two sets of shoes: Zack and Brittnye (Adamson) Brown as well as Caleb and Ashley (Ostrander) Boyken.
The Browns met in Brittnye’s first Murray State class and began dating several months later. On March 19, 2016, Zack and Brittnye Brown married and joined in the Racer tradition of nailing a pair of shoes to the Shoe Tree.
“Zack and I put our shoes on the Shoe Tree on my graduation day,” Brittnye said. “It was shortly after the new Shoe Tree was established, so our shoes got to be some of the first on there.”
Not only did the couple find each other at Murray State, but they also encountered many other individuals in the Racer family who enriched their college experience.
“It is evident each person in ‘Love Someone’ cares so deeply each other,” Brittnye said. “In my experience at Murray State, that was a common theme with most people I encountered, be it professors, other faculty or fellow students. Every person cares such an incredible amount not just about your scholastic success but about your happiness and becoming a well-rounded adult.”
Psychology majors Caleb and Ashley Boyken initially met through a group project in Dr. Daniel Wann’s social psychology class. After taking multiple courses together, the couple began dating and later married in May 2018.
“We were not expecting our shoes to be featured in the video,” Ashley said. “It was such a neat surprise to find out on the Racer Alumni Facebook page.”
For Sampson, the trip to Murray was about more than getting footage for “Love Someone.”
“I think the most fun thing about coming home to make this music video was being able to highlight the love of some of my friends I have known since childhood,” Sampson said. “I have not seen some of the people in the video since I graduated high school. I got to meet friends’ kids and families for the first time. It was such a great experience.”
One of those reconnections was with Sampson’s close friend, Samuel Rogers, and his wife Birdie Garrity. The couple, both graduates of Murray State, welcomed their first child in October. In “Love Someone,” the couple can be found gazing at their newborn daughter’s bassinet in the weeks preceding her arrival.
“We loved being a part of a video all about love and showing our love for our growing child we have yet to meet,” Garrity said. “Seeing people support each other is what community is all about to me — and I had that at Murray State.”
Similar to how the video showcases different kinds of love, from a little girl with a horse to an expecting family, Garrity has seen love and community in different ways at Murray State.
“The community of the recreation department was so supportive, and I will have friends in fellow students and professors for years to come,” Garrity said. “At Homecoming, my husband reconnects with his friends and sees how much they have grown in their lives, careers and families in the past year. It helps them stay connected to Murray.”
Also featured in the music video was Sara Suchodolski, an equine science major from Saginaw, Michigan. As a student worker at the Equine Center’s University Barn, she was called by farrier Bill Sampson, Will’s father, to be in the video. She and her boyfriend, Tommy Feissle, were shown jumping off a pontoon and swimming in Kentucky Lake.
“Living 10 hours away from home, I am blessed to work with people at Murray State who have taken me in as their own and made me feel like I was at home,” Suchodolski said. “I am forever thankful for these people that show me kindness and love me like their own kids.”
Although his work allows him to travel across the country, Sampson was delighted at the opportunity to be back in his hometown.
“I always enjoy coming back to Murray,” Sampson said. “This was the first time I was able to bring my work home and hopefully it will not be the last.”
For more information on the Shoe Tree and other University traditions, visit murraystate.edu/traditions.
“Love Someone” is a part of Lukas Graham’s “The Purple Album,” which will be released Oct. 26, 2018.