The Penn State Alma Mater

A Brief History

AlmaMaterPenn State’s Alma Mater was written by Fred Lewis Pattee (1863 – 1950), longtime Professor American Literature (and sometimes considered the “first Professor of American Literature”) at the school. Pattee bemoaned the fact that Penn State had not college song which would nourish collegiate spirit and loyalty as other schools had.

He composed the lyrics and published them in April 1901 while inviting others to submit their own ideas to drive interest. Originally, the words would be sung to the hymn “Lead Me On” by Cauviere, which was typically sung at commencement. He felt the tune was particularly appropriate as both a school favorite and a spirited song suited for male voices.

The song, in its original version, was first sung at the Alumni Dinner in June 1901 during commencement week. Governor Beaver, then president of the Board of Trustee, arose immediately and proclaimed it “the official song of Penn State!” With college president Atherton’s agreement, it became so. The version sung in 1901 had six versus, but later two were omitted and the four-verse version was then accepted as the Penn State Alma Mater.

The standing issue of the line “at Boyhood’s Gate” waiting to be “molded into men” bothered Pattee from the beginning. Penn State had been a coed college for thiry years when the song was written, but Pattee felt the ethos of the school was so male oriented that the song was appropriate as written. However, in a posthumously published autobiography, he is quoted that the words bothered many and suggested changing “boyhood” to “childhood” and “mold into men” to “Dear Old State.” In 1975, with Professor Patricia Farrell acting as a spokesperson for many who felt a change was long overdue, the Board of Trustees accepted Pattee’s original suggestion in honor of International Women’s Year.

Listen to the Glee Club’s rendition of the Alma Mater

Alma Mater Lyrics

For the glory of Old State,
For her founders strong and great,
For the future that we wait,
Raise the song, raise the song.

Sing our love and loyalty,
Sing our hopes that bright and free,
Rest, O mother dear, with thee,
All with thee, all with thee.

When we stood at childhood’s gate,
Shapeless in the hands of fate,
Thou didst mold us, dear old State,
Dear old State, dear old State.

May no act of ours bring shame,
To one heart that loves thy name.
May our lives but swell thy fame,
Dear old State, dear old State.

Soon we know a guiding hand
Will disperse our little band,
Yet we’ll ever loyal stand
State to thee, State to thee.

Then Rah! Rah! for dear old State,
For our love can ne’er abate!
Ring the song with joy elate
Loud and long, loud and long.

Italicized text denotes the four versus that are officially included in the modern Alma Mater