Alma mater was used in ancient Rome as a title for various mother goddesses, especially Ceres or Cybele, and later in Christianity for the Virgin Mary. In the modern language in North America, it is often any school, college, or university at which one has studied, and usually, from which one has graduated. The term may also refer to a song or hymn associated with a school.
The expression is almost always used in the singular form, but the Latin plural is almae matres.
The term alma mater in normal speech is rarely used outside of North America and German speaking areas. In the UK, use of Latin in unabbreviated form is normally reserved for scholars, symbolic and decorative purpose or scientific species identification.
Alma Mater Studiorum ("Nourishing Mother of Studies") is the motto of the University of Bologna, the oldest continually operating university in the world, and other European universities, such as the Alma Mater Lipsiensis in Leipzig, Germany, or Alma Mater Jagiellonica, Poland, have also used the expression in their names.
Alma Mater Europaea is an international university founded by the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in 2010. Its headquarters are in Salzburg, Austria, but most of its 800 students study at university's Slovenian campus called Alma Mater Europaea - Evropski center, Maribor.
“a University [that] is, according to the usual designation, an Alma Mater, knowing her children one by one, not a foundry, or a mint, or a treadmill” (I.vi.8), and because of the educational programs to which, in greater or lesser measure, many alumni association now devote attention.
Because the university is where, in Newman’s phrase, “a habit of mind is formed which last through life” (I.v.i), the university is Alma Mater for life, with whom her children have, in Newman’s language, perpetual residence, intellectually and spiritually if not always physically, even unto death.
On the campus of Columbia University on the steps of Low Library there is a well known bronze statue of Alma Mater by Daniel Chester French. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign also has an Alma Mater statue by Lorado Taft. A mural in Yale University's Sterling Memorial Library depicts the Alma Mater as a bearer of light and truth standing in the midst of the personified arts and sciences, painted in 1932 by Eugene Savage. Outside the United States there is another sculpture of Alma Mater on the steps of the monumental entrance to the Universidad de La Habana, in Havana, Cuba. The statue was cast in 1919 by Mario Korbel, and installed in its current scenic location in 1927 above the direction of architect Raul Otero.
- Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition
- Alma mater | Define Alma mater at Dictionary.com Dictionary.com. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
- Alma mater - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
- University of Bologna
- Pelikan, Jaroslav (1992). The Idea of the University: A Reexamination. New Have and London: Yale University. pp. 180–189. ISBN 0-300-05725-3.
- Pelikan, Jaroslav (1992). The Idea of the University: A Reexamination. New Haven and London: Yale University. pp. 180–189. ISBN 0-300-05725-3.