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File:Columbia University, NYC (June 2014) - 09.JPG

Alma Mater statue by Daniel Chester French, Columbia University, New York City

Alma mater (Template:Lang-la; pl. [rarely used] Template:Lang) is an allegorical Latin phrase for a university, school, or college that one formerly attended.[1] In US usage, it can also mean the school from which one graduated.[2] The phrase is variously translated as "nourishing mother", "nursing mother", or "fostering mother", suggesting that a school provides intellectual nourishment to its students.[3]

Before its current usage, alma mater was an honorific title for various Latin mother goddesses, especially Ceres or Cybele,[4] and later in Catholicism for the Virgin Mary. It entered academic usage when the University of Bologna adopted the motto Alma Mater Studiorum ("nurturing mother of studies"), which describes its heritage as the oldest operating university in the Western world.[5] It is related to alumnus, a term used for a university graduate that literally means a "nursling" or "one who is nourished".[6]

Etymology[]

File:Legate John, Alma Mater Cantabrigia Emblem 1600 (Golden Chaine print).jpg

John Legate's Alma Mater for Cambridge in 1600

Although alma (nourishing) was a common epithet for Ceres, Cybele, Venus, and other mother goddesses, it was not frequently used in conjunction with mater in classical Latin.[7] In the Oxford Latin Dictionary, the phrase is attributed to Lucretius' De rerum natura, where it is used as an epithet to describe an earth goddess:

Denique caelesti sumus omnes semine oriundi
omnibus ille idem pater est, unde alma liquentis
umoris guttas mater cum terra recepit (2.991–93)

We are all sprung from that celestial seed,
all of us have same father, from whom earth,
the nourishing mother, receives drops of liquid moisture

Template:Clear

After the fall of Rome, the term came into Christian liturgical usage in association with the Virgin Mary. "Alma Redemptoris Mater" is a well-known 11th century antiphon devoted to Mary.[7]

The earliest documented use of the term to refer to a university in an English-speaking country is in 1600, when the University of Cambridge printer, John Legate, began using an emblem for the university's press.[8][9] The device's first-known appearance is on the title-page of William Perkins' A Golden Chain, where the Latin phrase Alma Mater Cantabrigia ("nourishing mother Cambridge") is inscribed on a pedestal bearing a nude, lactating woman wearing a mural crown.[10][11] In English etymological reference works, the first university-related usage is often cited in 1710, when an academic mother figure is mentioned in a remembrance of Henry More by Richard Ward.[12][13]

Special usage[]

Many historic European universities have adopted Alma Mater as part of the Latin translation of their official name. The University of Bologna Latin name, Template:Lang (nourishing mother of studies), refers to its status as the oldest continuously operating university in the world. Other European universities, such as the Alma Mater Lipsiensis in Leipzig, Germany, or Alma Mater Jagiellonica, Poland, have similarly used the expression in conjunction with geographical or foundational characteristics. At least one, the Alma Mater Europaea in Salzburg, Austria, an international university founded by the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in 2010, uses the term as its official name.

In the United States, the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, has been called the "Alma Mater of the Nation" because of its ties to the country's founding.[14] At Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia, the main student government is known as the Alma Mater Society.

Monuments[]

File:Alma Mater Restored 2014.jpg

Alma Mater (1929, Lorado Taft), University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

The ancient Roman world had many statues of the Alma Mater, some still extant (e.g., at the Palatine Hill in Rome).

Modern sculptures are found in prominent locations on several American university campuses. For example, there is a bronze statue of Alma Mater by Daniel Chester French situated on the steps of Columbia University's Low Library; the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign also has an Alma Mater statue by Lorado Taft. An altarpiece mural in Yale University's Sterling Memorial Library, painted in 1932 by Eugene Savage, depicts the Alma Mater as a bearer of light and truth, standing in the midst of the personified arts and sciences.

There is an Alma Mater sculpture on the steps of the monumental entrance to the Universidad de La Habana, in Havana, Cuba. The statue was cast in 1919 by Mario Korbel, with Feliciana Villalón Wilson as the inspiration for Alma Mater, and it was installed in its current location in 1927, at the direction of architect Raul Otero.[15] Template:Clear

References[]

  1. "alma", oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  2. Template:Cite web
  3. Template:Cite book
  4. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition
  5. Template:Cite web
  6. Template:Cite book
  7. 7.0 7.1 Template:Cite book
  8. Template:Cite book
  9. Template:Cite book
  10. Template:Cite book
  11. Template:Cite book
  12. Template:Cite web
  13. Template:Cite book
  14. Template:Cite web
  15. Template:Cite web

External links[]

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