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Image of the seal on the Bone Student Center building

Alma Mater & Motto

Est. 1926

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Motto traces back to the 14th century

Alma Mater was composed in 1926

Two traditions with deep roots

  • Gladly we learn

    Unclear origins

    The University’s motto traces to Geoffrey Chaucer's 14th century Canterbury Tales. The quote’s origins as the motto are unclear, but "and gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche" was displayed prominently in early versions of the University’s seal, with first known appearance of the seal/motto combination being on the cover of the University’s 1912 yearbook. That early version of the seal included the motto and the initials “ISNU” overlapping one another at its center.

    As part of the school’s centennial celebration in 1957, both the seal and motto were modernized. ISNU was replaced by the University’s full name surrounding an image of an open book to symbolize formal learning. The motto was displayed in modernized spelling. A glowing torch representing teaching was added, along with 1857 to note the founding year.

    Both the seal and the motto have evolved. Today's seal features a contemporary take on the elements introduced in 1957. The motto, "gladly we learn and teach," is gender neutral and community minded.

  • Proud the halls

    The Alma Mater

    The Alma Mater is a shortened version of the school hymn. The school hymn was composed in the 1913-14 school year by Gussie Schneider '14. The lyrics of the Alma Mater are as follows.

    Glory hast thou, might and power; proud the halls of ISU.
    Deeds that live in song and story, loyal sons and daughters true.
    So shalt thou in years increasing send they grads of honest worth,
    forth to bear with zeal unceasing wisdom's torch throughout the earth

    Watch the Big Red Marching Machine sing the Alma Mater in four part harmony.