Few people who have ever gone to an Oregon State athletics event or just watched one on television will be unfamiliar with what happens when the Beavers score, whether it’s a touchdown, 3-pointer or a goal – the crowd erupts, the athletes celebrate and the Oregon State Band launches into the song we all know so well.
You know the one I’m talking about:
The OSU fight song and it’s creator are actually far older than most people would give them credit for, seeing as the song was penned over a century ago in 1914. To demonstrate how long ago that was, it needs to be pointed out that when the song was written it wasn’t titled “Hail to Old O.S.U.” and it didn’t even mention Oregon State University in it, the song was about Oregon Agricultural College.
Shortly after it had emerged from the pen of O.A.C. alumni Wilkins, “Hail to Old O.A.C” was already the official fight song of the university. Despite the long amount of time that has passed since it was adopted – 101 years – the song itself has undergone very few changes. The most notable changes include the increased focus on the chorus and the verses included in the 1914 version being phased out as well as the lyrics becoming more gender neutral. The modern version of the fight song also features the seemingly classic B-E-A-V-E-R-S chant that virtually every student and alumnus has sung along with at least once.
The song hasn’t lost any of its bite after all this time though, and the lyrics still pay homage to the Beavers fighting spirit and their physical toughness as written by Wilkins in 1914. The composer himself was a member of the O.A.C. Orchestra and the Chief Musician of the O.A.C. Cadets.
A Jeffersonian Debater with a thesis on Systematized Debate, Wilkin’s interests weren’t confined to just music either. Wilkins was a literary commerce major who after graduation embarked on a string of business endeavors that took him from Fresno to Los Angeles where he would spend the rest of his life (A list of places and companies he worked for can be located on the OSU Alumni website here). In 1957 Wilkins returned to his alma mater and the town that he had grown up in for his 50-year college reunion where he was photographed relaxing in a chair at the Memorial Union. Wilkins would pass away 2 years later in 1959; a great man who had made an invaluable and enduring contribution to the university he loved, a contribution that can be heard every time the Beavers show up to play. Harold Wilkins our hats are off to you.
Special thanks to blog author Christopher Russell for this awesome post!