Dear Old State

The Hintz Family Alumni Center displays the lyrics to the alma mater on the wall.
The Hintz Family Alumni Center displays the lyrics to the alma mater on the wall.

In April 1901, Penn State’s alma mater was written by Fred Lewis Pattee, Professor of American Literature at the University. Prior to its creation, Penn State did not have a college song, and Pattee wanted one that would encourage spirit and loyalty.

The lyrics were composed to the tune of “Lead On Me” by Cauviere, a song frequently sung at Commencement. Pattee thought this appropriate because it was a school favorite and was well-suited for male voices.

The alma mater was first sung at the Alumni Dinner in June of 1901 during Commencement Week. After the performance, Governor Beaver, president of the Board of Trustees immediately deemed it “the official song of Penn State” and President Atherton soon agreed and it became so.

Even though Penn State had been coed for 30 years when the song was written, it still contained the lyrics “at boyhood’s gate” waiting to be “molded into men,” which bothered many. By 1975, Professor Patricia Farrell acted as spokesperson to have the lyrics changed from “boyhood” to “childhood” and “molded into men” to a repeat of “Dear old State,” a suggestion made by Pattee years earlier. With acceptance of this suggestion from the Board of Trustees, the change was made official in honor of International Women’s Year, a year dedicated to equality by the United Nations.

Download the alma mater performed by the Blue Band by visiting their website.

The Penn State Alma Mater
By Fred Lewis Pattee

For the glory of old State,
For her founders strong and great,
For the future that we wait,
Raise the song, raise the song.

Sing our love and loyalty,
Sing our hopes that, bright and free,
Rest, O Mother dear, with thee,
All with thee, all with thee.


When we stood at childhood’s gate,
Shapeless in the hands of fate,
Thou didst mold us, dear old State,
Dear old State, dear old State.


May no act of ours bring shame
To one heart that loves thy name,
May our lives but swell thy fame,
Dear old State, dear old State.