Traditions

Hanging of the Lantern

As you walk through campus, your route will take you by one of the most iconic symbols at UWL, the Hoeschler Clock Tower and the small black lantern, which hangs inside.

That lantern has a story and the annual hanging of the lantern is a tradition at UWL.  In the fall of 1931, English professor O. O. White wrote a letter to one of our returning alums.  "We'll hang the lantern in the old college tower over the south door. You won't need a key, the door will be open."

The lantern was hung on the south entrance to Graff Main Hall each homecoming until 1997 when it was permanently moved to the Hoeschler Clock Tower to shine throughout the year.

That light is a reminder for students and alumni that they are part of "The La Crosse Experience" and always welcome home.

A Lantern. It is the Alumni Association's logo, name of the university's alumni publication and online alumni newsletter.

Lighting of the 'L'

This tradition began in 1935 when we played our first nighttime football game. 

77 years ago, during half time of the Homecoming game, F. Clark Carnes, and Bernie Brown, students from the class of 1937 lit a 9-foot "L" which was seen on Miller's Bluff which is just north of Grandad Bluff.

For many years the "L" was burned with rags and kerosene in coffee cans.  In 2009 a new "L" was purchased and we observe the tradition with an LED rope light display that is mounted on top of Grandad Bluff during Welcome Week each year.

The "L" shining from the bluff is a welcome to students, faculty and staff who have returned to campus for the start of a new school year.

Alma Mater & Fight Song

Alma Mater sound_music_itunes_blue
(Tune: Far Above Cayuga's Waters)
Morning sun greets many banners,
on its westward way;
Fair to us above all others,
waves Maroon and Gray.
Colors dear, flag we love,
float for aye, old La Crosse to thee;
May we all be ever loyal,
to thy memory.

UW-La Crosse Chant
Hit it!
Hooray, Hurrah, La Crosse, La Crosse (repeat 3 times)
With a bully for old La Crosse,
Rah, Rah, Rah, Rah,
La Crosse, La Crosse, La Crosse...Eagles!

La Crosse (Fight Song) sound_music_itunes_blue
(Tune: La Crosse by Joyce Grill)
We're going to cheer, La Crosse,
Because we're here, La Crosse,
Let us make it clear.
We're going to fight, La Crosse,
With all our might, La Crosse,
Victory is near.
So let's dig in, La Crosse,
We're going to win, La Crosse,
Go Maroon and Gray.
We're going to fight, win,
show that we're the best,
because we are La Crosse, La Crosse.

The history of the UW-La Crosse songs -

The current alma mater
The university's current alma mater holds the distinction of the longest-running traditional school song, dating back to when it first appeared in the Feb. 5, 1917 Racquet. The song was titled: La Crosse Normal. The song also appears on an early song handout sheet probably between 1917-1929. On that sheet it is titled: La Crosse Normal Hymn.

La Crosse Normal/Alma Mater's lyrics were written by Russel Morgan, head of the Music Department from 1916-21. It was set to the tune Far Above Cayuga's Waters, Cornell University's alma mater song, established in the early 1870s, with the lyrics penned by two students. However, Cornell didn't compose the music to that song. The original tune was called Annie Lisle, which was about a girl dying from TB/consumption. H.S. Thompson, a Boston, Mass., composer, wrote it in 1857.

The reason it was chosen for UW-La Crosse's alma mater tune was because it was the popular thing to do nationwide. The Cornell alma mater song appealed to various listeners for many years, and many wanted something very similar for their own institution. Many colleges, high schools, and universities adopted the tune (See some of them at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Lisle) and then adjusted the lyrics to their institution.

Lyrics to the UWL version:
Morning sun greets many banners,
on its westward way;
Fair to us above all others,
waves Maroon and Gray.
Colors dear, flag we love,
float for aye, old La Crosse to thee;
May we all be ever loyal,
to thy memory.

Old La Crosse, dear Alma Mater
to thy praise we sing;
All our songs to thee are given,
Ever may it ring;
Colors dear, flag we love,
float for aye, old La Crosse to thee;
May we all be ever loyal,
to thy memory.

The UWL Alma Mater lyrics have changed very little since their debut. The current version is the same as the original appeared in 1917 with two exceptions. First, the original chorus ended with "may thy sons for e'er be loyal to they memory," which was changed, possibly during the women's liberation movement, to "may we all be ever loyal to thy memory." Second, the original second verse started with "La Crosse Normal of Wisconsin, to thy praise we sing." When the school changed its name, the lyrics were changed to "old La Crosse, dear Alma Mater, to thy praise we sing." Also, in recent time, only the first verse is sung.

During the university's centennial in 2009, Music Professor Gary Walth re-worked the alma mater for a gala celebration for a one-time performance, giving it a more jazzy tune revised lyrics.

Earlier alma maters
The first original school song was Invocation: La Crosse Normal Song, with music by Homer E. Cotton, a music department faculty member from 1915-22. English words were by Howard Jones and Latin words by John M. Bridgham. It was used through about 1917.

The lyrics to Invocation:
Gracious mother in whose shadow,
Up-right ways and wisdom are
While with singing we salute thee,
Lean above us like a star
Bend thy radiant eye-lids on us,
Lit with splendor warm with tears
As thy marching feet we follow,
Guide us onward down the years.
Alma Mater, cui sub umbra
Sunt fas et scientia,
Te cantu cum salutamus
Quasi stella supera
Oculos incline tuos
Qui calent iam lacrimis;
Nos gradatim te sequentes
Annis duc in futuris.
-copyright 1914 by Homer E. Cotton. The song is in 4/4 time, key of C

There was also another song titled Alma Mater included with music from the current tune. In that alma mater, the words are quite different. There is no mention of what tune it is sung to or of who wrote it.

The lyrics:
In words of praise and loyalty,
In reverence, love, and constancy,
We ever sing our song to thee,
Our Alma Mater.  
'Neath bluffs on Mississippi's shore,
With fringed birches bending o'er,
The quiet coulees breathe thy lore,
Our Alma Mater.
May Grandad keep his stately place,
His spirit is thy guardian face,
That lure us with its lasting grace,
Our Alma Mater.
In after year to thee we'll turn,
God grant thy memory ever burn,
In hymn of praise for all eterne,
Our Alma Mater.

The UWL Chant
The UWL chant was written by former director of bands John Alexander, on the faculty from 1969-2000, in the '70s when UW-L had no fight song of its own. The chant is a fight song without a melody. It is used as a link between La Crosse and On Wisconsin following a score by the football team. It is the perfect length for the extra point attempt after a touchdown (during which the band cannot play).

The lyrics:
Hit it!
Hooray, Hurrah, La Crosse, La Crosse (repeat 3 times)
With a bully for old La Crosse,
Rah, Rah, Rah, Rah,
La Crosse, La Crosse, La Crosse ... Eagles!

The La Crosse Fight Song
Music department faculty member Joyce Grill  composed La Crosse (fight song) in 1987. It is the university's official fight song. Before its debut, non-specific songs were used to get the crowd into a frenzy of school spirit. Some of songs were On Wisconsin and the Beer Barrel Polka. However, it was felt UWL needed its own fight song. Most other UWL songs are set to the tune of popular song melodies and other school fight songs.

The lyrics:
We're going to cheer, La Crosse,
Because we're here, La Crosse,
Let us make it clear.
We're going to fight, La Crosse,
With all our might, La Crosse,
Victory is near.
So let's dig in, La Crosse,
We're going to win, La Crosse,
Go Maroon and Gray.
We're going to fight, win,
show that we're the best,
because we are La Crosse, La Crosse.

-Compiled by UWL News and Marketing. Thank you to Area Research Center, UWL Murphy Library, for historical research.

The UW-La Crosse Official Seal

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse seal hasn't changed much since it was adopted in 1928. The only changes have been the names on the border, reflecting the institution's growth from a normal school to a comprehensive university. Tony Lee, a student from Stoddard, Wis., designed the seal with History Professor William Laux's suggestion on symbols and a Latin phrase. "Mens Corpusque," which means "mind and body," exemplifies the university's commitment to a quality education for the whole person. Fassett Cotton, the institution's first leader who served from 1909-24, conceived that philosophy of total development of the individual. The mind and body are represented by the scroll and person. The sunrise over the bluffs signifies the view looking east of campus. The moving lines depict the waves of the mighty Mississippi River, which flows just west of campus.

The original hand-drawn 1928 seal ... is stored in the Area Research Center/Special Collections in UWL's Murphy Library. It is signed by artist Tony Lee.

Info on Tony Lee:
-Graduate of La Crosse Central High School.
-Student at UWL from 1926-28.
-Art editor of the UWL yearbook (then called The Racquet). His pictures, drawings and cartoons can be seen in the 1928 Racquet.
-Transfered to the University of Minnesota to major in architectural engineering.
-Owned Interior Art Craft Fixtures Co. in La Crosse.

Betty Pollack Graff wrote to Tony Lee in 1979. He had forgotten that he had drawn the seal. But Graff had asked Dr. William Laux in 1957 and 1979 about the seal. Both times Laux specifically remembered Lee drawing it.

-Complied by UWL News and Marketing. Special thanks to the Area Research Center, UWL Murphy Library, for historical facts.