Burning Bushes, Crying Alone, Seeing Stars: Not College Stories, Just Latin Mottos

So recently I was in a teaching workshop and was discussing with some of my colleagues the use of mission statements as well as school credos and mottos. With many schools having Latin mottos I thought I would take a minute to reflect on this phenomenon as a classical reference that is more overt than most of the ones I write about here.

I will start with my alma mater, Temple University. Temple’s Latin motto is Perseverantia vincit (perseverance conquers). Personally of all of the Latin phrases out there I think this one is pretty weak. I might even challenge my friends who are still there to seek a change to this motto. I mean at least use the whole phrase which is Perseverantia omnia vincit (perseverance conquers all). I was unable to find a specific origin of this phrase in ancient literature, but I would venture to say that it is a modern adaptation of Ovid’s phrase Amor omnia vincit.

Now onto some other mottos worthy of comment.

Baylor University- Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana: I mention this one first for my friend at Baylor. This makes me laugh simply because Texas was turned into a Latin word. It means “For church, for Texas.”

Campbell University- Ad astra per aspera: “To the stars through difficulties.” This Latin motto makes me think of Steinbeck’s use of a similar motto ad astra per alia porci (to the stars on the wings of a pig) which is my favorite Latin phrase of all time. Ad astra phrases are usually attribute to Vergil who wrote that Aeneas’ son Iulus would “go to the stars.”

Dartmouth College- Vox clamantis in deserto: I include this one solely because the translation on Wikipedia made me laugh hysterically. Wikipedia translates it as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” I just conjure up this image of a student sitting alone in the New England wilderness crying over a pile of books; not exactly the image I would want as a prospective student. This is also the translation offered by the Dartmouth website so while I would translate it differently I will not dispute it here.

University of Florida-Civium in moribus rei publicae salus: “The welfare of the state depends upon the morals of its citizens” The birthplace of Gatorade brings us this great motto which many would say was exemplified well by Tim Tebow during his time there. This motto is, however, funny to me as the welfare of that campus clearly depends on its partying student body.

University of Kansas- Videbo visionem hanc magnam quare non comburatur rubus: “I will see this great sight, how the bush does not burn” Alright I know I’m going to catch some crap for this one as this quotation comes from the Bible, but this is the funniest college motto I’ve come across. I don’t think I even need to flesh this one out for the dirty minds of college students everywhere. I’ll just leave you with [Insert STD joke here].

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3 thoughts on “Burning Bushes, Crying Alone, Seeing Stars: Not College Stories, Just Latin Mottos

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