Familiar Goal, Fresh Words: The Alma Mater

By Callie Owensby ’20
5/31/2019 5:00:00 AM

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Since the mid-1930s, JBU’s alma mater has been sung at commencement ceremonies as a reflection of the continuing legacy of the university. The tune is an old one, written in 1857 by H.S. Thompson, and the words are not unique to JBU, having been used by various other universities over the years. 

For some time, there has been a discussion about revising the alma mater to more distinctly reflect the university’s Christian values and history. Under the encouragement of faculty and staff, Jen Edwards, department head of music and theatre and assistant professor of worship arts, undertook the responsibility of recrafting the words to the alma mater.

“My main goals were really to reflect the mission of JBU accurately, to not change the song so much that it was no longer familiar and, if possible, to include some language that the JBU community would recognize as central to the mission,” Edwards said. 

The new alma mater, while closely resembling the former version, has significantly less militant language and includes phrases that fit the institutional mission, spirit and goals. 

“Alma maters are intended to remind those singing them that they were a part of something larger tied to a specific institution, culture and place,” Edwards said. “I believe the new alma mater better reflects the culture and commitments of JBU.” 

It is fitting that a year that is full of celebration and reflection on JBU’s past and its continuing legacy is marked by an edition of the alma mater that seeks to do the same.  

If you’d like to read the new lyrics, visit jbu.edu/alma-mater/.

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