By Dr. Roger Erdvig, WCS Headmaster
As I write this article, members of the WCS class of 2022 are preparing to enter a new phase in their relationship with our beloved school. As of Saturday, June 4 at about 12 pm (if all goes according to plan at commencement!), WCS will cease to be their school and will become their alma mater.
The phrase alma mater is typically used for one of two things.
First, it can be a song that’s unique to a particular educational institution– a song that puts to music a statement of affection for and loyalty to the school. WCS has an alma mater in this sense of the word, and it will be sung with gusto at our graduation ceremony on Saturday. Recently re-discovered as we did research for our 75th anniversary, Mr. Noah Allen, our upper school instrumental teacher, has arranged it for choir and orchestra, and it debuted at our Spring Gala. We will sing it year after year at major events to help foster a sense of community and gratitude for the Lord’s work through WCS. (See the end of this article for the lyrics to WCS’s official Alma Mater.)
This brings us to the second usage of the term alma mater. It’s used to refer to the school itself, after one graduates. It might be heard as in, “I can’t wait for homecoming. It’s been too long since I’ve seen the ol’ alma mater!”
But why do we call a song or a school an alma mater?
Alma mater is a Latin phrase that means “nourishing or bounteous mother,” and it is a fitting description of what all schools are. A school is not merely a place where you acquire a diploma or degree. Schools are profound influencers, and figuratively speaking, they are like nourishing mothers. A student who is a part of a particular educational institution over time is nourished by that school–by the teachers, the curriculum, the co-curricular activities, and the school culture itself.
This brings up another interesting fact–the word alumni (or alumna or alumnus) is from the Latin as well, meaning “son or daughter.” Consistent with the concept of a school being a nurturing mother, a graduate is considered a son or daughter of that mother. So, when we talk about WCS’s alumni community, we’re talking about the school’s sons and daughters, maintaining and living out the DNA of their “parent.”
The imagery implicit in these terms shapes a beautiful vision for a school. More than the means to earn enough credits to graduate, WCS is nurturing sons and daughters to be sent out into the world as creators and cultivators.
So next time you hear WCS’s alma mater being sung, or when you next refer to our graduates as alumni, know that behind these words is a profound truth about the purpose of education. It is to lovingly nurture a certain kind of person. And for WCS, we will have done our “parenting” task well when each new class of WCS sons and daughters represents their true Father to a hurting and complex world.
Cultivating godly influencers
Wilmington Christian School provides a distinctively Christian, innovative education that effectively develops Godly influencers who are well prepared for life after high school and who impact the culture for Christ.