“Hail!” endorsed as RPI student fight song
The RPI Pep Band presented their case to recognize “Hail! Dear Old Rensselaer” as the official fight song to the Student Senate on January 20.
Represented by Former Executive Manager Leighann Kemp ’20 and associate managers Asaf Harel ’22 and Colin McMaster ’22, the Pep Band spoke about the history of the fight song and its significance in igniting school spirit. They also presented their petition to officially recognize the fight song, which, with 275 signees, had surpassed the threshold that requires it to be considered by the Senate.
According to Executive Conductor Reno Malanga ’22, the Pep Band was asked to play the fight song for President Shirley Ann Jackson’s 20th anniversary. However, instead of “Hail!” the band was asked to play a different song, composed by Dean of HASS Mary Simoni. This is when the Pep Band realized that “Hail!” is not an Institute-recognized song. Although the song did have official status in the 1960s, it was removed due to the outdated language used in the lyrics and was never re-recognized. The old lyrics included the lines “Each man must do his part” and “True sons of Rensselaer.” The new lyrics “We all must do our part” and “True to old Rensselaer” are more gender-inclusive.
The song, which is played by the Pep Band during sporting events, is well-recognized by both current students and alumni. Kemp also explained that “[Pep Band] members are very passionate about school spirit” and that playing “Hail!” as the fight song is a “tradition of the Pep Band.” McMaster elaborated that it is a “source of pride for the school to have its own unique, alumni-composed fight song,” referring to the alumni from 1934 who had composed the original piece.
During their campaign to reinstate “Hail!” as the fight song, the Pep Band not only sent out a petition via their various social media but also collected statements from alumni regarding the significance of the song to them. “I have it memorized on three instruments,” remarked one alumnus. Said another, “I have been playing this song for sixteen years now … I imagine I can still play it in my sleep. To me, this song is permanently linked to hockey.”
After playing a video of the Pep Band playing “Hail!” during a hockey game for the Senate, Kemp reiterated the importance of a fight song. Kemp added that when Simoni spoke with the Pep Band, she recalled learning her own college’s fight song during orientation and how it was well-known among the entire student body.
Grand Marshal Meagan Lettko '20 agreed, saying that in the athletic community, there are many traditions that students may not know if they do not frequently attend sporting events and that if there is an official fight song, then students will at least know that much going into their first games.
The Senate motioned to endorse “Hail! Dear Old Rensselaer” as the official fight song of the Institute and to work with relevant administrators to pursue this change. This motion passed unanimously.