By Kayla Hedman ’14 / Champlain College News
This past year I had the pleasure of joining Champlain College registrar Becky Peterson in the singing of Champlain’s Alma Mater at the 135th Commencement Ceremony. Having attended the Commencement Ceremony the previous year, I was not surprised by the fact that no graduating students knew the tune to sing along to. Not only that, but I myself didn’t even know the words or tune before Becky e-mailed me a demo.
The problem is that the song only surfaces twice a year; once at opening convocation where we welcome first-year students, and once at commencement where we acknowledge their completed journey at Champlain.
The tune was first documented in the 1965-66 Champlain College handbook, the Rudder. The lyrics and music were credited to a J. Beams. The lyrics were then published in the 1966 yearbook, at a time when the College’s Glee Club would be joined by the rest of the student body and perform the song at major events, and it was inconsistently referenced from there on out.
After spending a morning doing research in the Champlain College archives with archivist Erica Donnis, I learned a lot about the school through the 1960s. I learned how it was run, saw many respected faculty and staff members of the past who have since been honored with residence halls and academic buildings in their name, was introduced to a student body that was here on the hill for two years (as Champlain was still a junior college at the time), and I got to see a campus much different than the one we stroll through today.
While I grumble about the song only being performed twice a year, for decades it went untouched. Until President Finney began his period in office at Champlain, there was not a formal convocation ceremony, and the tradition of the Alma Mater had since been forgotten. It was resurrected about five years ago, and has been performed with pride biannually ever since.
With all the changes at Champlain in the last half-century, it’s not surprising that our Alma Mater seems a little bit old-fashioned. Here are the lyrics to our grand old song:
Come join in festive song together,
As we sing of old Champlain;
Harken to the joyous chorus
And the sweet, sweet, ling’ring refrain.
We’ll sing our song with spirit
and we’ll wave the green and white,
Always onward never slowing;
Goals fore’er in sight.
Hold the name of Champlain sacred,
Praise it loud and strong;
We will march in vict’ry
As we sing our golden song.
Now our Alma Mater reigns,
The Queen of Destiny.
We will pledge our lives to duty,
Never failing thee.
Harken to the joyous chorus,
And the sweet refrain;
Join in festive song together,
Sing of old Champlain!
During Becky and I’s duet at last year’s commencement ceremony, I heard ‘mumble mumble mumble’ from the audience throughout the entire tune, ending with SING OF OLD CHAMPLAIN! This song is the last thing that graduates do before leaving the tent, and I think it would be powerful and gratifying moment if graduates could sing along.
This mission begins now, with you, class of 2017. You heard your preview at convocation, and I hope that we can blow some dust off it every once in a while so it resurfaces throughout the academic year. Take pride in this tune. It has a lot of history and you spend four years (more or less) preparing for that moment where you get to sing it on graduation day.
You could be the first class to embrace the school song, make it your own, to take pride in your Alma Mater. Not that classes of the past haven’t taken pride in it before, but they sure haven’t shown it through rehearsed song.
Another proposed option is that we embrace a new Alma Mater. This could lead to interesting collaborations in the next few months. Stay tuned.
If you have any information on the history of the Champlain College Alma Mater, composer J. Beams, or any memorabilia from Champlain College’s past that you would like to donate to the Champlain College Archives, please contact archivist Erica Donnis at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to schedule a research appointment to look through the Champlain College archives, you may also contact Erica Donnis to do so.