Answered By: Miranda Rectenwald
Last Updated: Apr 04, 2018     Views: 2387

The earliest surviving collections of school songs date from the 1880s. Many of these early school songs were popular tunes of the day, such as songs from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, with parody lyrics about college life. The first known Alma Mater was written in 1906 by William Schuyler, class of 1874. Sheet music and lyrics to the song were published as a supplement to the February 1906 issue of Student Life. At the bottom of the title page to the sheet music is a notation: "In the absence of an official Song, this is the Alma Mater for the time being"

In 1907, the director of the W.U. Glee Club, Arthur Lieber, proposed to his students that they write an Alma Mater and suggested that it be based on the traditional German song, "How Can I Leave Thee". Two glee club members, Milton Rosenheim and George Logan, both class of 1908, wrote verses to the song - Rosenheim wrote the first verse; Logan the second. The lyrics were printed in Student Life and the song quickly became accepted as the University's Alma Mater. The words are:

Dear Alma Mater, thy name is sweet to me
Our hearts are all for thee, fair Washington
Thy halls shall honored be throughout this great country
For all eternity, our Washington

Those days of youth which all of us spent with thee
Form a dear history, fair Washington
Could they renewed be, we'd live our days with thee
For all eternity, our Washington

The song has no title other than "The Alma Mater". The tune "How Can I Leave Thee" is also the basis for the Alma Mater at the United States Military Academy, West Point.

View the sheet music to the song How Can I Leave Thee (from the American Memory website, sponsored by the Library of Congress).

In 1994, as part of an effort to update the University's official songbook (last updated in 1922), the music department invited students and alumni to submit original school songs. Entries were judged in two categories: sentimental song and fight song. The winner in both categories was Chris Tess, Washington University Class of 1993, who wrote music, lyrics, four-part harmonies, and piano accompaniments to two songs:

Fight Song: "Fight for Washington"
Sentimental Song: "Our Dear Washington"

Both songs received their world premiere at a W.U. Wind Ensemble concert held at the St. Louis Art Museum in the Spring of 1994.

The songs did not replace the existing fight song or Alma Mater.

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