By Daniel Rigney
I stumbled recently onto an intriguing list of U.S. college and university mottos.* I’d like to share some of the more peculiar ones with you.
Most academic mottos play endless variations on the well-worn themes of knowledge, wisdom, and
making money practicality. They’re not particularly inspired or inspiring. A few, though, are oddly distinctive or unintentionally funny.
Here are some specimens I found interesting for one reason or another. Most of these are English-language renderings of the original Latin. Which are nuggets and which are dross? You be the judge.
“Manly Deeds, Womanly Words” -- University of Maryland. [This antiquated maxim also serves as Maryland’s state motto.** I presume the motto is female, since it’s expressed in words, not deeds.]
“Mind and Hand” -- M.I.T. [What, no heart?]
“Laws Without Morals are Useless” -- University of Pennsylvania [including, presumably, its law and business schools.]
“Through Studies and Upright Affairs” – University of Vermont. [It's a popular myth that upright and long-standing affairs can’t result in pregnancy.]
“She Who Earns the Rose May Bear It” – Sweetbriar College. [I’m afraid to ask what “the rose” symbolizes here.]
“Let There Be Light” -- Angelo State University, TX. [As a Texan, I think the motto should have been “Let There Be Heat.”]
“Not for Oneself But For One’s Own” – Tulane University. [Does this motto predate the racial integration of the South? Just wondering.]
“Educating for the Real World” – University of Bridgeport. [Universities, you see, are not a part of reality. But note that 21st-century businesses corporations whose futures depend on research and creativity now commonly call their headquarters “campuses.” As universities become more like business corporations, corporations become more like universities.]
We have a tie for Best Motto:
“To Be Rather Than to Seem” is shared by no fewer than three institutions: Appalachian State University, Peace College, and Montreat College -- all three, oddly, located in North Carolina. This noble affirmation of authenticity is not to be confused with the expression “To See and Be Seen,” a guiding principle of Greek life on some campuses.
And finally “Omnia Extares” – Evergreen State University, translated loosely as “Let It All Hang Out.” Apparently the spirit of the sixties is alive and well in the state of Washington.
Honorable Mention goes to Warren Wilson College, whose motto is: “We’re not for everybody – but then, maybe you’re not everybody.”
Though it didn’t make the initial list, I also admire the current promotional slogan (not the official motto) of Rice University in Houston: “Unconventional Wisdom.”
The most famous university motto of them all is “Veritas,” Latin for Truth. That motto belongs to one of New England’s finest institutions of higher learning. I refer, of course, to Providence College in Rhode Island.
I suspect that most of us couldn’t recite our school’s motto if our diplomas depended on it. I didn’t know mine until today. (“Education is the Guardian of Something or Another.”) The majority of mottos are in languages (mostly Latin) that few of their institutions’ own graduates can understand without the aid of a translation app.
I got the idea for this post from fellow Open Salon blogger Kate Geiselman, who mentioned here that the motto of Sinclair Community College, where she teaches, is “Find a Need and Endeavor to Meet It.” So here I am, endeavoring to meet the recreational and procrastinational*** needs of web browsers looking for a little amusement and mental stimulation between rounds of housework or homework or cubiclework.
To you, I say "Utrum Per Hebdomadem Perveniam" ("If I can just get through this week").
*alternate spelling: mottoes. I found these mainly in Wikipedia’s “List of University Mottos” and on several college and university websites.
**I previously edited a similar collection of amusing and edifying state mottos.
*** I enjoy making up words; and because I'm habitually academic, even my grocery lists have footnotes.