Category Archives: Emory things

Alma Mater, to thee we sing

It graces every Commencement ceremony. It closes every Legacy Brunch. It rings from the bell tower on Cox Hall every day at noon. It is both the most familiar tune and the least-known song on the Emory campus. Everyone can hum it, but most are grateful for the lyrics printed in their programs. It is the Emory Alma Mater.

Alma mater — Latin words meaning nourishing or kind or bounteous mother. The phrase harks back to the founding, in 1088, of the first university in the West, the University of Bologna, whose official name is Alma Mater Studiorum Universita di Bologna.

We know these words to signify something more particular–a university’s signature song. An alma mater’s lyrics often strain to fit rhyme to meter, and the sentiment usually verges on treacle. Frequently the tune is one familiar to thousands who may never even have heard of the institution that the alma mater salutes. That tune is “Annie Lisle,” and it is the tune of hundreds of alma maters for high schools, colleges, and universities around the country–and even in China.

Published in 1857, the original ballad sang of a young woman, “pure as the forest lily,” who, as she lies dying, hears the sound of angels singing and whispers to her mother, “God is love.” Did I say treacle?

Two Cornell University undergraduates claimed the tune first, around 1870, for the setting of “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters.” Many other balladeers followed, but it took until 1918 for someone to recognize that “Annie Lisle” could also accommodate a hymn to the bounteous mother named Emory.

Marvin Rast, hailing from Louisville, Georgia, was a campus leader elected to membership in the DVS Senior Society.

J. Marvin Rast 18C 29T
J. Marvin Rast, in the 1918 Emory Campus

He also sang in the Emory Glee Club. In the spring of Rast’s senior year, the glee club director, Professor Christian Hamff, lamented the absence of a song about Emory for the season’s final concert.

Christian Frederick Hamff, M.A.
Christian Frederick Hamff, Professor of Modern Languages and Director of the Glee Club

Stirred to action, Rast went back to his dormitory room and composed two verses and a chorus. The tune, of course, was “Annie Lisle.”

In the heart of dear old Dixie, / Where the sun doth shine,

That is where our hearts are turning, / ‘Round Old Em’ry’s shrine.

CHORUS

We will ever sing thy praises, / Loyal sons and true.

Hail we now our Alma Mater, / Hail the Gold and Blue.

Though the years around thee gather / Crowned with love and cheer,

Still the mem’ry of Old Em’ry / Grows to us more dear.

REPEAT CHORUS

Thus the Emory Alma Mater was born. Performed at Commencement in 1918, it took hold.

But it had several problems. To begin with, there were those lines in the chorus, “We will ever sing thy praises, loyal sons and true.” What about the women, who had begun enrolling at Emory’s Atlanta campus in 1917?

And why those apostrophes in “memory” and “Emory”?

And what did it mean that the years would “gather ’round” Alma Mater? Were we supposed to see the college personified as a grandmotherly figure shedding benign smiles on younger generations?

And finally, what about that word “Dixie”?

I’ll say more about revisions to the Alma Mater in the next post.

Gary Hauk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hidden and half-forgotten time capsule

Mere yards from one of the busiest pedestrian thoroughfares at Emory, and just steps from the DUC terraces, lies a treasure obscured by holly and time. It’s the Sesquicentennial Time Capsule.

On December 10, 1986, immediately after the Sesquicentennial Convocation in Glenn Memorial, a procession wended its way across the campus to the relatively new Dobbs University Center, whose terraces are visible in the photo below. The site from which this photo is taken is the location of the time capsule.

View from the time capsule to DUC terraces
View from the time capsule to DUC terraces

Here you see the holly bush that has grown up over the time capsule.

View from DUC terraces to the bush hiding the time capsule
View from DUC terraces to the bush hiding the time capsule

And here is another view, courtesy of Bob Hamilton in Campus Life.

DUC time capsule

Once the procession had made its way to the “grassy knoll” in front of the DUC, a crowd gathered around Dooley, present for the burial of something other than himself into the gaping hole prepared for the ceremony. A time capsule planned for the 150th anniversary of Emory’s founding was filled with 150 items, including cans of Classic Coke, Cherry Coke, and Diet Coke. (The controversy over New Coke had recently filled the newspapers–clippings from which were also included in the time capsule.) A commission appointed by President Jim Laney to review the university’s investments with regard to South Africa’s apartheid struggle had recently issued its report; a copy was placed in the time capsule. President Laney had delivered an attention-getting speech at Harvard titled “The Education of the Heart.” Into the capsule. Someone thought to include a copy of a Chem 141 exam and a videotape of a Rathskellar performance (but not technology to play it on). A tee shirt from the local watering hole, P.J. Haley’s, was included; the time capsule already has outlasted the pub. Emory’s first intercollegiate basketball team had played its first away game days before, losing to NYU; a team photograph, signed by all the players, went into the time capsule.

And then the things was buried, to be dug up in fifty years.

Burying the time capsule

Within a couple of decades, however, a little holly bush soon grew up to hide the marker indicating the time capsule’s location.

Bush that hides the time capsule
Bush that hides the time capsule

DUC time capsule 3

If you know where to look, you can find it–though you may have to scrape away leaves, pine straw, and dirt to read the plaque.

Time capsule

Here it is, photo inverted to make the text readable.

Time capsule inverted

Sesquicentennial Time Capsule

buried here on December 10, 1986

to be opened in 50 years on

Emory’s 200th Anniversary

I hope to be present at the opening!

Meanwhile, there’s a plan afoot to raze the DUC and rebuild a magnificent new university center in its place. Let’s be sure to work around that time capsule.

Gary Hauk