Carmen Ohio Centennial
A speech given by Robert B. Stevenson
October 25, 2002
Thank you, it's an honor to be here and speak about such an important anniversary in the history of Ohio State University. Carmen Ohio, the Alma Mater, was written October 25th, 1902 by Fred Cornell, a freshman on the football team.
He wrote it on the train coming back from Ann Arbor, after a loss. By coincidence, the Michigan song Hail to the Victors, was written by a player on the train coming back from Chicago after a big win. Perhaps Coach Paterno will give pencil & paper to his players tomorrow after the game, WIN OR LOSE, so one of them might write a new school song on the way home.
Cornell was born in Columbus in 1882 and graduated Old Columbus high school. He sang in the choir at Trinity Episcopal church downtown and in Beta Theta Pi men's glee club at OSU. The 1904 Makio described Cornell as a champion all around athlete. In track he ran relays, the 100 yard dash, low hurdles, and he set an OSU gym record for high hurdles. He was the starting center on the basketball team, starting shortstop on the baseball team, and reserve end on the football team.
One hundred years ago THIS MORNING the football team and more than a thousand Buckeye fans boarded the Toledo and Ohio Central train, bound for Ann Arbor. OSU was then undefeated, having outscored their first four opponents by a total of 86 to nothing. Michigan's Ferry Field was filled to capacity that day, and newspaper accounts say nearly half of the 6,000 spectators supported Ohio. Both schools brought their marching bands and cheerleaders, and as kickoff time grew near, the excitement level approached pandemonium.
Ohio fans were singing the fight song:
Rip! Zip! Bazoo!
I yell! I yell for O.S.U.!
It was sung to the tune of Roll, Jordan, Roll, in case you couldn't tell.
Suddenly, the frolicking jubilation stopped -- as the Michigan band played, The Yellow and Blue. Michigan fans stood up and removed their hats, and sang the solemn song. Fred Cornell decided, Ohio State needs a song like that.
The game began poorly as Michigan scored first, and then Ohio State's big left guard, Jim Lincoln, was ejected for a personal foul. At halftime the score was 45 to nothing, and the second half went no better. The game ended, 86 to nothing. One hundred years ago THIS EVENING the Buckeyes boarded the train back to Columbus, beaten and bloodied, but unbowed.
Cornell began writing phrases on the back of an envelope, to the melody of Spanish Chant, an ancient hymn. He borrowed a little bit from the Yale song, Bright College Years, which goes, "The seasons pass, the seasons go, the earth is green or white with snow, but time and change shall not avail, to break the friendships formed at Yale." Cornell's coach, Perry Hale, was a former captain of the Yale football team.
The first public performance of Carmen Ohio was in December 1903, in the (Ohio) State House chapel, for Governor Judson Harmon, and then a few weeks later on New Year's Eve, for crowd of 80 people in a small town near Lima. After that the song seemed to disappear, and was nearly forgotten. A scary thought.
In 1906, some students sang it at a football pep rally, around a bonfire. The words appeared in The Lantern newspaper October 10th, and ten days later the words and music were in the (Ohio State vs) Michigan game program. It has been sung at every home game ever since.
In 1916 the Orton Hall bell tower was finished, and the first carillon concert was on University Day. Several popular songs were played, concluding with Carmen Ohio FOLLOWED by Westminster Peal, the familiar chimes heard at the top of each hour. Forty years later, Marching Band director Jack Evans decided the chimes would make a good introduction to Carmen (Ohio), and asked arranger Dick Heine to work on it. The three long bongs set the pace for the song, and provide the proper pitch to sing.
Cornell went on to a successful career in the automobile and shipbuilding industries. In 1961 he received the University's Distinguished Service Award for his composition and 60 years of continuous devotion. He died in Florida in 1969 at the age of 87.
In 1991, the Ohio State graduating class donated a monument, which is located on the southwest corner of the Oval, in the shadow of Orton bell tower. A nine by five foot slab of polished gray granite, with the words to Carmen Ohio -- chiseled in stone.
Fred Cornell is gone, but the song he wrote one hundred years ago is alive today, burning in the hearts of Buckeye fans around the world. Thank you very much, and Go Bucks!
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The Ohio State University, BA, History, 1979
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Last Updated: 23 September, 2021