The Varsity Tradition


Oh we see the Varsity,
Varsity, Varsity,
As she towers o'er the hill
Over there.

And our hearts are filled with joy,
Alma Mater, we'll be true

In 1916, SMU theology student Lewis N. Stuckey wrote the words and music to Varsity. As Stuckey was driving to school one morning, he saw the University far in the distance and was inspired to write a song. In addition to his work as a student, Stuckey was also pastor of a church in Farmers Branch and one in Carrollton. One Sunday he invited his friend Harrison Baker to the Carrollton church where the new song was to be sung, and Baker was so impressed that he thought the composition should be the alma mater of Southern Methodist University.

In 1929, Varsity was adopted by SMU as its official school song. In the same year, Professor Todd, SMU's first band director from 1917 to 1924, published the song using his arrangement with Stuckey's approval. The notice on the sheet music says "Copyright 1929 by Harold Hart Todd."

A vocal precentor, selected by the Head of the Voice Department, leads the ceremony participants in Varsity at the conclusion of Opening Convocation, December Graduation and the Baccalaureate Service. The precentor is traditionally a graduation candidate and has the honor of sitting on stage as a member of the platform party.

Unique to Commencement Convocation each May, the lights of Moody Coliseum are dimmed as Varsity is played by the Imperial Brass. Graduation candidates are encouraged to bow their heads in silence, close their eyes and reflect on their time at SMU as the song is performed. This is the only time Varsity is presented in this format, and it is always a moving occasion. Varsity has been performed in this manner since May 1984.