The Alma Mater made its first appearance in The Brown Paper of 1860 (which for some reason was that year entitled The Brunonian). James Andrews DeWolf 1861 had been appointed Psi Upsilon’s editor for the paper and had been urged to write a poem. Feeling that there was a need for a Brown song, he selected a tune, “Araby’s Daughter,” which was often sung by students who gathered to sing on the chapel steps in the evening. Later generations recognize this same tune as “The Old Oaken Bucket.” The song he wrote, named “Old Brown,” did not gain the hoped-for popularity among the students at that time, but was later discovered by the Glee Club and sung at a concert in 1869. In the program of the concert the song had been rechristened “Alma Mater.” The first of the three stanzas which DeWolf wrote is well known to many alumni; the others have largely been forgotten.
Alma Mater! we hail thee with loyal devotion,
And bring to thine altar our off’ring of praise;
Our hearts swell within us, with joyful emotion,
As the name of Old Brown in loud chorus we raise.
The happiest moments of youth’s fleeting hours,
We’ve passed, ’neath the shade of these time-honored walls,
And sorrows as transient as April’s brief showers
Have clouded our life in Brunonia’s halls.
And when we depart from thy friendly protection,
And boldly launch out upon life’s stormy main,
We’ll oft look behind us, with grateful affection,
And live our bright college days over again.
When from youth we have journeyed to manhood’s high station,
And hopeful young scions around us have grown,
We’ll send them, with love and deep veneration,
As pilgrims devout, to the shrine of Old Brown.
And when life’s golden autumn with winter is blending,
And brows, now so radiant, are furrowed by care;
When the blightings of age on our heads are descending.
With no early friends all our sorrows to share; –
Oh! then, as in memory backward we wander,
And roam the long vista of past years adown,
On the scenes of our student life often we’ll ponder,
And smile, as we murmur the name of Old Brown.