Monday, June 27, 2016

“Wanted – A College Song”

In November of 1908, it was decided that State Normal and Industrial College (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) should have a school song. The small woman’s college opened its doors in 1892, and although class songs, cheers, and poems were popular with the students, the school did not have an official Alma Mater. An alumnae committee was established to select a song and decided to hold a competition, which was publicized in the State Normal Magazine. In an announcement titled, “Wanted – A College Song,” the committee offered a prize of “ten dollars in gold” to the person writing a song that best represented the “spirit of the college.” Words could be adapted to an established song, or an original composition could be submitted, in which cases “musical critics” would be called in as judges.

Laura Weill

Although there was no immediate response to the competition, Wilmington native, Laura Weill (Class of 1910), did submit a song shortly before her graduation.  Incorporating a tune by W. A. White that she discovered in an anthology of college songs, Weill penned “The College Song,” with a focus on loyalty and the school’s devotion to service. Service had always been an important part of State Normal’s mission, but it was the motto of the Class of 1910 and they “willed it” to the college during graduation. It was during the May 1910 Commencement ceremony that the song was first performed, and was thereafter incorporated into the college handbook and other campus publications, including “Twenty-Five Songs for Community Singing,” which included patriotic songs such as “The Star Spangled Banner” and “The Old North State,” as well as folk tunes like “Barbara Allen” and “My Old Kentucky Home.” Belle Kornegay (Class of 1918) later arranged the composition for sheet music.

"The College Song" Score

After the college became co-educational in 1963, there was discussion that the song should be replaced with a more relevant choice. The argument came up again in the early 1980s. Ultimately, it was decided that Weill’s song would be kept, although the words would be adapted to include, “your sons and daughters” and “university,” reflecting the more diverse student body. The renamed “The University Song,” is still played at Commencement and other university events.

The words, written by Laura Weill, are as follows:

We raise our voices; let them swell
In a chorus loud and strong;
The rolling hills send back the sound
Of our triumphant song.
For in one great unbroken band
With loyal hearts and true,
Your daughters stand, and hand in hand
Sing college dear to you.

Our college days run swiftly by
And all too soon we part;
But in the years that are to come
Deep graven on each heart
Our motto, “Service,” will remain,
And service we will do,
And as we serve, our hears will turn,
O college dear, to you.

Dear Alma Mater, strong and great,
We never shall forget
The gratitude we owe to you—
A never-ending debt.
All honor to your name we give,
And love we pledge anew,
Unfailing loyalty we bring,
O college dear, to you.

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