Alma Mater Has Been a Symbol of Columbia for Centuries

Well before the Alma Mater statue was placed on Low Steps in 1903, she appeared on Columbia’s seal. Samuel Johnson, Columbia’s first president (in office from 1754 to 1763), designed the school’s seal — which prominently features the personified Alma — in the College’s early days as King’s College. Minutes from a 1755 University Trustees meeting describe the seal this way: “The College is represented by a Lady sitting in a Throne or Chair of State, with several children at her knees to represent the Pupils ... One of them She takes by the hand with her left hand expressing her benevolent design of Conducting them to True Wisdom and Virtue ... .”

A “nourishing mother” fostering growth in students through education has remained a symbol of Columbia ever since, with Alma Mater’s installation solidifying her place as the heart of Columbia.