Did You Know?: 100th anniversary of 'Hail Purdue'

September 13, 2012  

Hail Purdue

The University's fight song, "Hail Purdue," was written a century ago this year. (Photo provided by University Bands and Orchestras)
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"Hail Purdue," the University's official fight song and one of the most frequently played tunes on campus, is one century old this year.

The song dates to 1912, according to an article in "Hail Purdue," a 1987 book marking Purdue bands' 100th year in existence. That year, a student named James Morrison endeavored to come up with a song that could inspire and champion the University community. A talented poet, Morrison wrote the lyrics to a piece he originally dubbed "Purdue War Song."

Morrison's search for just the right music for his words led him to write a letter to Edward Wotawa, an alumnus who had directed the Men's Glee Club before graduating earlier that year. In 1957, the "Purdue Alumnus" published an interview in which Wotawa recalled Morrison's request.

"Jimmie's lyrics … were so good that in just reading them, one would naturally 'sing-song' them. Hence, it was not difficult to set them to music," Wotawa said.

"Accordingly, I made an arrangement for piano and voice and one for Male Chorus and sent them to Mr. Morrison. He, in turn, as I remember him telling, gave it to the then-existing Glee Club and had it sung at Chapel, where it immediately met with popular favor. Subsequently, it was adopted as the official Purdue song."

"I am thankful that it happened to be my lot to write the melody which has been so closely associated with that great Purdue spirit through the years."

According to the 1957 article, Morrison died in 1929. Wotawa, however, went on to become a music and physics instructor at Male High School in Louisville, Ky.

Just before the 1957 book's publication, Wotawa visited campus for his 45th class reunion, where Al Wright, the band's director, handed him the baton and allowed him to lead the song he had composed.

"Hail Purdue" was dedicated to the Glee Club and copyrighted in 1913. A reproduction of the original, handwritten manuscript is framed and displayed in Purdue Musical Organizations' offices.

Writer: Amanda Hamon, 49-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu

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