Old Dominion alumni singing Alma Mater at a Founders Day event in 2001, courtesy of the Old Dominion University Special Collections and Archives.

This September marks the 50th anniversary of Old Dominion University founding (technically its third founding… let me explain…)!

In 1930, Old Dominion was first established as the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary. This partnership lasted until 1962 when the Norfolk Division became a four year institution and split from William and Mary (“The Great Schism!” Just kidding, we love William and Mary here 😊). Soon to be renamed Old Dominion College, under then president Lewis Webb, ODC was a more of a technical institution. When the college created its first doctoral program in 1969, it underwent a second (third?) name change, becoming Old Dominion University.

So to honor the establishment of Old Dominion University fifty years ago, I present a song, Alma Mater!

Alma Mater

Old Dominion, hail!

Hail to thee our Alma Mater,

Blue and Silver, hail!*

By the ocean’s billows flying,
See them proudly sail!

University young and strong,
We lift our voices in this song,
This our Song of Alma Mater,
Old Dominion, hail!

*Old Dominion’s school colors were changed from blue and white to blue and silver in 1986. Originally, the lyrics were “Blue and White, hail!”

Alma Mater by Robert Jager. Sorry, I couldn’t find a clip with lyrics, but feel free to sing along!

After the separation of William and Mary and Old Dominion College, Professor John Foster West would alter Alma Mater in 1962. Striking out any mention of William and Mary, yet keeping the same melody. This form of the Old Dominion March would remain until 1970. Below is the College of William and Mary’s version of Alma Mater:

Hark! the students’ voices swelling
Strong and true and clear.
Alma Mater’s love they’re telling,
Ringing far and near.

Chorus:
William & Mary loved of old
Hark upon the gale,
Hear the thunder of our chorus
Alma Mater – Hail.

All thy sons are faithful to thee,
Through their college days,
Singing loud from hearts that love thee,
Alma Mater’s praise.

Iron-shod or golden-sandaled
Shall the years go by
Yet our hearts shall weave about thee
Love that cannot die.

God, our Father, hear our voices
Listen to our cry;
Bless the college of our fathers,
Let her never die.

Alma Mater presented by William and Mary Women’s Chorus, 2011. It is absolutely beautiful.

Robert Jager, who lectured in composition and directed the band at ODU until 1971, rewrote Alma Mater in its current iteration. Reworking not only the lyrics, but composing an entirely new march. The result is a song that highlights the strengths of the young university, with a proud naval heritage and focus on the future.

Happy 50th anniversary Old Dominion University. Old Dominion, hail!

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