The year was 1950. The young College of Steubenville, founded less than four years prior, was preparing to graduate its first class of students. The problem? There was no alma mater to sing for the milestone.
Alma maters are school traditions. The grand anthems are sung by generations of students to honor their “foster mother,” passed down through the years at sports events and commencement ceremonies alike. And the College of Steubenville’s president, Father Dan Egan, TOR, wanted one to honor its inaugural graduates.
Enter Fred Waring. The music industry giant, known as the “The Man Who Taught America How to Sing,” provided a melody to go with the written lyrics. In March 1950, the College of Steubenville’s Baronette newspaper proudly proclaimed the new alma mater “is the only such song he has composed outside his own professional interests.”
Students could purchase first edition Alma Mater sheet music from the College bookstore for a quarter. Only 1,000 copies were printed. This special edition’s cover also listed the class of 1950 degree candidates and the Glee Club students who first sang the Alma Mater.
Over the next few decades, the College of Steubenville underwent much transformation and growth, including a name change to become Franciscan University of Steubenville. The Alma Mater was likewise due for an update.
In 2017, catechetics professor Dr. Bob Rice MA ’97 revised the Alma Mater. The first verse largely remained the same to honor the University’s history, but the song’s latter half was altered. Along with new harmonies, the second verse was rewritten to better convey Franciscan University’s Catholic identity and mission, as well as incorporate its name.
The updated version debuted at the 2017 commencement ceremonies and continues to be sung today.