UNCG emeritus professor and lauded poet Fred Chappell, who helped create the UNCG MFA in Creative Writing program, has now graced UNCG’s 125th anniversary celebration with a special poem: “A Salutation to the Alma Mater in this Her Birth Year.”

Chappell was the Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 1997 to 2002 and received the UNC system’s O. Max Gardner Award and UNCG’s McIver Award. He has also received the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, Aiken Taylor Award in Poetry, T.S. Eliot Prize and Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger from the Académie française, among other awards.

The poem below first appeared in the special 125th anniversary issue of UNCG Magazine.

 

A Salutation to the Alma Mater in this Her Birth Year
spoken by the community of all students, past, present, and future

We gather to express all gratitude
For those enduring gifts that we received
From the faithful nurturing Motherhood
Of our University beloved.
This bright threshold of opportunity
Opened promiseful new worlds unknown
To an eager community
Whose pilgrimage had now begun.
We learned to study varied aspects of Nature,
To examine every thought as it occurs,
To bear us each as a friendly creature
On watchful terms with the universe.
Here we discovered the persons that we were,
And glimpsed the persons that we might become,
Striding a measured thoroughfare
Or marching to a different drum.
To grasp the blessings of liberty we turned
The pages of our Nation’s storied past,
Finding that all the freedoms earned
Arose from questions, first and last.
Founded to uphold the Women’s cause,
The College enabled us to elevate
Those motives of imperfect laws
That would abridge their true estate.
With Commerce, Science, Literature, and Art
Our College became our University,
Stepping forward to embrace its part
In our Nation’s history.
Alma Mater, you we hail;
Forever may your spirit thrive,
And may your valiant years strongly prevail
Long past your young One Hundred Twenty-five.

                           – Fred Chappell, professor emeritus