- Dee Baily
Official or traditional songs sung at ceremonial, festive, or athletic events to generate enthusiasm and school spirit, or to support the school’s sports teams. They include “alma maters” (or school anthems; the Latin term alma mater, meaning “benign mother,” is frequently applied by alumni to their school or college), “fight” songs, and nostalgic songs.
Popular songs such as glees, drinking songs, hymns, and ballads have traditionally been appropriated by students and adapted for school use at functions and festive occasions, but it was not until the 19th century that songs were commissioned expressly for such purposes by American schools and colleges. The earliest of these, “Fair Harvard,” written in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Harvard University (1836), was set to the tune of the traditional song “My lodging is on the cold ground,” better known in the later version, “Believe me, if all those endearing young charms”; later, the same tune was adapted by other institutions, among them the University of Iowa. Other early examples of specially commissioned songs include the alma mater of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, an original song written by a member of the class of ...