Go Columbia

Confused by the USC alma mater? You’re not alone

At every home football game, University of South Carolina fans stand for the alma mater.

Some belt out the song. Others mumble, hoping no one notices if they fumble a word or two.

But when they get to the end, everyone raises a hand with gusto.

In all kinds of ways.

Some make a spur, with pinkies and thumbs poked up. Some clench their fists. Some salute.

Those are all wrong.

The words should give a clue as to what singers should do: “Here’s a health, Carolina.”

It’s a toast.

USC’s alma mater, “We Hail Thee, Carolina,” was written in 1911 by George A. Wauchope, an English professor who won a contest to write the school song. It was set to “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton,” a Scottish folk song based on a poem by Robert Burns.

There are four stanzas, but usually only the first is sung. Each ends with, “Here’s a health, Carolina, forever to thee!”

And, again, the toast.

A lot of Gamecocks fans don’t know all the words, or they haven’t studied them long enough to realize they’re offering a toast.

That doesn’t stop most from honoring their school.


Lyrics to USC’s alma mater

We hail thee, Carolina, and sing thy high praise;

With loyal devotion, remembering* the days,

When proudly we sought thee, thy children to be;

Here’s a health, Carolina, forever to thee!

Since pilgrims of learning, we entered thy walls

And found dearest comrades in thy classic halls,

We’ve honored and loved thee as sons faithfully;

Here’s a health, Carolina, forever to thee!

Generations of sons have rejoiced to proclaim

Thy watchword of service, thy beauty and fame;

For ages to come shall their rallying cry be

Here’s a health, Carolina, forever to thee!

Fair shrine of high honor and truth, thou shalt still

Blaze forth as a beacon, thy mission fulfill,

And be crowned by all hearts in a new jubilee;

Here’s a health, Carolina, forever to thee!

*Some versions say “rememb’ring”

How well do you know other SC school alma maters?

Match the first stanza of the song with the S.C. school to which it belongs. The dashes replace school names and mascots that would make this quiz way too easy.


(1) Sing the praise of Alma Mater

Let us rally to her call

Lift our voices, send them ringing,

Thru the groves and classic halls.


(2) Where the Blue Ridge yawns its greatness,

Where the – play,

Here the sons of dear old -

Reign supreme always.


(3) Oh – we sing thy fame

For all the world to hear,

And in the paths our fathers showed us

Follow without fear.

Peace and Honor, God and Country,

We will fight for thee.

Oh-, we praise thee now

And in Eternity.


(4) The Chapel holds our history,

Each new day Tillman rings,

Your halls are rich with memories,

To which we’ll always cling.

A part of each one here remains,

As a part of you we claim,

Alma Mater, may your name be grand,

-ever stand.


(5) Hail to thee, our Alma Mater.

Hail to thy time-honored name.

Proud tradition hover’round thee;

May we never bring thee shame.


(6) On the city’s northern border,

Reared against the sky

Proudly stands our Alma Mater

As the Years go by.



(a) The Citadel

(b) College of Charleston

(c) S.C. State

(d) Wofford College

(e) Winthrop University

(f) Clemson University



(1)(c) S.C. State

(2)(f) Clemson

(3)(a) The Citadel

(4)(e) Winthrop

(5)(b) College of Charleston

(6)(d) Wofford