When staff member Nancy Hanson first learned of the competition to create an alma mater for the University of North Georgia, she knew immediately that she wanted to enter.
"We always say that we're here for the students and that what we do is all about the students," Hanson said. "I knew that this was my chance to really do something for them, and I see this as my legacy to the students."
Lyrics written by Hanson, assistant to the dean of the Mike Cottrell College of Business, were chosen as the UNG alma mater from among 14 submissions. Hanson said she was honored and overwhelmed when she learned her words would become a part of the history of UNG, a school that she has grown as close to as if it was her own alma mater. Hanson has worked at the university for several years, and her son, Kyle Harvey, is an alumnus of the University of North Georgia and former member of the Corps of Cadets who served two tours in Iraq.
“I was pleased to see so many people interested in contributing to the university in this way,” said President Bonita Jacobs. “Nancy’s lyrics beautifully highlight our distinctive geographic region, our mission and our diversity as an institution.”
Hanson's lyrics begin by describing the geographical region represented by the university's four campuses in Cumming, Dahlonega, Gainesville and Oconee and combine the themes of history and tradition with an optimistic vision of the school's future.
From the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains
To the banks of Lake Lanier
Memories of our alma mater
That we all revere.
"The imagery is wonderful, honoring our histories, and focusing forward. I believe these words capture those things we value most in our institution," said Dr. Patricia Donat, UNG's provost and senior vice president of academic affairs.
Hanson also made sure her lyrics included the school’s core values and embraced the distinct cultures of each of the consolidated university's four campuses, a factor she felt was important to highlight "because our university is so diverse":
Seeking courage, truth and wisdom
Fires of loyalty abound
University of North Georgia
Built on diverse ground.
It's not the first time Hanson has written song lyrics; a high school classmate won a talent contest by putting music to a love poem she had written about a school crush. Hanson also has had a chapter about her husband, the late radio personality Ludlow Porch, published in a book by "GRITS: Girls Raised in the South" author Deborah Ford, "Bless His Heart: The GRITS Guide to Loving (or Just Living With) Southern Men." Hanson currently is working on her own book that will include humor, though probably not in rhyming couplets.
"We all have strange little things that people don't know about us, and the thing that most people probably don't know about me is that I think in rhyme—all the time," she said.
Both Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University, which consolidated in January to form UNG, have had their own alma maters, developed by faculty members of the respective institutions. The alma mater is traditionally performed at university functions and special events to instill a sense of unity, pride and commitment.
The committee reviewing entries for the UNG alma mater, chaired by Andy David, head of UNG's Department of Music, selected two finalists, and a group of faculty, staff, students, and alumni representatives from the Gainesville and Dahlonega campuses was asked to select which they thought best for the alma mater.
As the winning entry, Hanson receives a $500 prize. Her lyrics will be read aloud as part of the April 26 installation ceremony for President Bonita C. Jacobs and are included in the event program. Music is being composed to accompany the lyrics, and the alma mater will be performed shortly after the inauguration at the first UNG commencement exercises, set for May 4 and May 10-12.