Alma Mater

choir singing hymn

students singing alma mater at game day

Alma Mater/Hymn

Hail to Alma Mater!
We will sing thy praise forever;
All thy sons and daughters
Pledge thee victory and honor.
Alma Mater, praise be thine,
May thy name forever shine!
Hail to Purple! Hail to White!
Hail to thee, Northwestern!

Listen to the audio of the Alma Mater here.

Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, Northwestern students sang the original version of the University Hymn in the language of ancient Rome. The traditional hymn ("Quacumque sunt vera") was written in 1907 by Peter Christian Lutkin (1858-1931), who served as the first dean of the School of Music from 1883 to 1931. Lutkin based the song on Franz Joseph Haydn’s "St. Anthony Chorale," an Austrian pilgrim’s hymn that Haydn used in one of his compositions ("Feldpartita"). The Latin lyrics were written by J. Scott Clark, the hymn’s arranger. The literal translation of the Latin lyrics was based on the University’s motto, the Bible verse Phillipians 4:8, that begins with the phrase "Quacumque sunt vera," which means "Whatsoever things are true."

In an attempt to revitalize the school hymn ub 1953, the then Director-of-Bands, John Paynter recuited an undergraduate music student, Thomas Tyra (class of 1954) to write the English version of the song to replace the Latin verse.

While the "Alma Mater" has gone through changes over the years, the tradition and pride associated with the song continues. Today, the "Alma Mater" hymn is performed by the Marching Band during halftime at Wildcat football games, and by the orchestra during formal and special occasions such as commencement or convocation ceremonies.