Purdue Varsity Glee Club

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With integrity, passion, unparalleled showmanship and attention to every detail, the men of the Purdue Varsity Glee Club have proudly served as ambassadors of Purdue University with honor and dignity for more than 115 years.

Founded in 1893, this select ensemble has entertained on behalf of Purdue University for campus, community, state, national and international events, averaging between 50-60 appearances each year. Embodying the spirit of service above self, the men of the Purdue Varsity Glee Club represent different backgrounds and hometowns across the country, consistently maintaining a high level of academic excellence with majors ranging from engineering to education to management to biological sciences.

This dynamic musical troupe employs a versatile repertoire including gospel, vocal jazz, swing, contemporary hits, romantic ballads, classical choral selections, barbershop, folk melodies, patriotic standards, familiar opera choruses, country and novelty tunes, and utilizes small groups and outstanding soloists to further enhance each show.

Under the direction of William E. Griffel, the Purdue Varsity Glee Club continues to share a sound all its own through one-of-a-kind arrangements in tailor-made performances for audiences of all ages.[1]


For more than a century, young Purdue men have given their best in performance to audiences at the university, throughout the nation and around the world. The spirit and success of the Varsity Glee Club also inspired the birth of Purdue Musical Organizations over 65 years ago. Today, as throughout its memorable history, the Glee Club brings recognition and honor to Purdue University.

As a part of PMO, the Glee Club shares the mission to make music that fosters camaraderie among students as they learn, rehearse, travel and entertain. The men of the Glee Club represent virtually all academic areas. As Purdue’s official ambassadors of song, their accomplishments are even more impressive in light of the fact that Purdue has no school of music.

In 1893, 11 Purdue students sang in the first Glee Club, directed by Lafayette organist Cyrus Dadswell. At that time, Purdue University was rough around the edges, more given to agriculture and engineering than music appreciation. Despite its environment and numerous changes in leadership, the Glee Club persevered. In 1910, E.J. Wotawa directed the group and later composed the fight song “Hail Purdue.” During the 1920s, director Paul Smith brought to the ensemble a strengthened sense of purpose. However, it was largely due to the enthusiasm of the Glee Club’s first full-time director, the irrepressible Albert Stewart, director from 1932 to 1972, that music found a home at Purdue.

When Al Stewart first asked Purdue president Edward C. Elliott for funds to pay for Glee Club uniforms, he met with a vigorous refusal. But as the Glee Club gathered admirers, Elliott yielded and generously formalized Stewart’s position, gave him a staff, and provided rehearsal space.

Under Stewart’s direction, the Glee Club increased in size to more than 60 members. Concerts took the club to a variety of venues across the nation and abroad. In 1942, popularity of the Glee Club received an important boost when Purdue was a finalist in Fred Waring’s national Glee Club Sing-Off in New York. Other performance highlights were to follow, including U.S. presidential inaugurations, a goodwill trip to West Germany after World War II and a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1974, William Luhman succeeded Stewart as director of PMO and the Glee Club. A man described as a “piano wizard with perfect pitch,” Luhman was a former Glee Clubber himself, graduating in 1949. Luhman’s career had developed at Stewart’s side, having accompanied the Glee Club for 17 years before taking the helm. While loyal to Stewart’s music philosophy, Luhman expressed some of his own interests by starting many Glee Club specialty groups. When illness and an untimely death cut short Luhman’s efforts, he was succeeded by accomplished pianist William Allen.

Under the direction of Brian Breed, the Glee Club continued to share its eclectic and unique style of entertainment with audiences everywhere. Today, these ambassadors of goodwill for Purdue University continue to entertain audiences throughout the world. Nine European tours along with tours to Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, China, the United Kingdom and South Africa have served to showcase the talents of these fine young men.[1]


Directors of the Purdue Varsity Glee Club[edit]

  • Cyrus Dadswell - 1893 - organist, first director of The Purdue Varsity Glee Club
  • The Men's Glee Club went through five directors in the first five years of existence.
  • E.J. Wotawa - 1910 - student, took over directing [he composed "Hail, Hail To Old Purdue" which he dedicated to the PU Glee Club]
  • Professor Paul Tincher Smith - 1920 - 1927 - He was the first to give true focus, discipline and direction to the Glee Club. He died suddenly in 1927 from a ruptured appendix.

→ Mrs. Helen Smith Anderson 1927 - 1932 - Paul T. Smith's beloved wife, a well-known Indiana musician, became the Director of the Glee Club following Paul's death. Between 1925 - 1928 the Glee Club won its first distinction by placing among the first 4 in the Intercollegiate Glee Club Concert.

  • Al Stewart - 1932-1974 - First full-time director, founded Purdue Musical organizations, acquired costumes, staff, and rehearsal space.
  • Bill Luhman - 1974-1982 - Purdue Bells started under his direction
  • William Allen - 1982-1989
  • Brian Breed - 1989-2007 - conducted many tours and spread the Purdue Varsity Glee Club's reputation
  • Gerritt J. Vandermeer - Jan 2008 - May 2008 (Interim) This Glee Club alumnus led the group on its international trip to South Africa.
  • William E. Griffel - June 2008–present


The Purdusirs[edit]

The Purdusirs is a leadership group comprising outstanding juniors and seniors. Each of the 9-12"sirs" chairs a committee.[2] The committees change frequently and titles include but are not limited to Advancement, Public Relations, Properties, Rehearsal Room - Lounge & Transportation, Scholarship, Recruitment, Merchandise, Social Media, and Performance Preparation. The other two sirs are the chairman of the Sirs and the manager, who have oversight over the entire club. Ad well as heading the committees, they are responsible for various procedural matters. The Sirs wear gold and black ribbons on their full dress uniform. The Purdusires is a parallel organization comprising outstanding administration, faculty and staff members.[2] This organization also has 9-12 members, individually assigned to each committee and acting as advisors and counselors to their respective Sirs and other Glee Club members. A Sire serves as someone with whom a Sir or other Glee Club member interacts through many varied activities, both formal and informal.

The Purdusires[edit]

The Glee Club is fortunate to have, along with the Purdusirs, an organization composed of outstanding university administration, faculty and staff members. This organization, known as the Purdusires, is also composed of 12 members, individually assigned to each committee. These individuals graciously volunteer to act as advisors and counselors to their respective Sirs and other Glee Club members. A Sire serves as someone with whom a Sir or other Glee Club member interacts through many varied activities, both formal and informal. The Purdusires also represent a commitment on the part of Purdue administration, faculty and staff to offer a model for achievement and success and an inspiration as a mentor and friend.


The Purdue Varsity Glee Club has many strong traditions, some of which are described on this page, and others that will be carried on only by the mouths of its members. There are many that the public has come to love and expect in Glee Club performances, and many that most of our audience members will never be aware of. The most important tradition, though, is one that is difficult to describe.

The Varsity Glee Club has been entertaining audiences for more than 100 years with fun, lively, varied musical programs that appeal to audience members young and old alike. But it’s not necessarily our music that is our proudest tradition.

Each of us has always maintained a traditional clean-cut look that complements our timeless white tie and tails tuxedo. This unchanging appearance has been a refreshing break from the varied styles of the decade for our audiences throughout our history. But our appearance, while noteworthy, is not the defining tradition.

It is our commitment to excellence in all we do that defines the Purdue Varsity Glee Club. Not just excellence in showmanship, but excellence in character as well. Glee Clubbers have set themselves apart both within the group and beyond, creating a name for this organization that is synonymous with versatility, commitment, energy, enthusiasm and character. That is the Glee Club’s greatest tradition, and it is the goal of every Glee Club member to further this tradition of excellence.

The Tradition of Mingling[edit]

It is traditional for the men of the Glee Club to spend a short time mingling with audience members after all full concerts and other appropriate performances. Mingling gives the men of the Glee Club an opportunity to become better acquainted with the audience and also gives the men a chance to show their appreciation to the audience for supporting the Glee Club.

Many members of Glee Club audiences are Purdue, PMO or Glee Club alumni who are interested in hearing about new developments on campus. Mingling is an important part of each Glee Club performance. Each individual is responsible for nurturing the rapport between the Glee Club and its audience.

As “goodwill ambassadors” of the university, members of the Purdue Varsity Glee Club serve as a nostalgic link with the past, an encouraging example of the present and, a positive image for the future.

Glee Club Pete[edit]

The traditional mascot of the Purdue Varsity Glee Club is Glee Club Pete. Glee Club Pete is “Purdue Pete” decked out in the full dress uniform. What many people don’t realize, however, is that this symbol started as a joke.

In 1954, Dr. Al Stewart and the Glee Club were performing for the Rotary Club of North Manchester, Ind. Always on the lookout for the opportunity for a good-natured prank, the men of the local Rotary Club decided to play a little joke on the group. One particularly creative Rotarian by the name of Slim Warren took the traditional Purdue Pete and made a few modifications. Slim fashioned a 4-foot replica of Pete dressed in the complete Glee Club full-dress outfit and positioned him at the side of the stage. Dr. Stewart and the guys liked this fellow so much that they adopted him as their official mascot. Thus, on January 28, 1954, in North Manchester Glee Club Pete was born. He continues to symbolize the Glee Club spirit of music and fun wherever he appears.

The Carnation[edit]

White carnation boutonnieres are traditionally worn by the Glee Club at every full-dress concert. They are worn on the left lapel of the full-dress uniform, centered and approximately two inches from the top of the lapel.

After each concert it is customary for a Glee Club member to pin his carnation on the lady of his choice along with a kiss. Thus the carnations act as much more than just a decoration for the full-dress outfit — the carnation becomes a token of appreciation for audience members to take home as a reminder of their evening with the Glee Club.

The Medallion[edit]

The Varsity Glee Club’s medallion is one of the first items on the Glee Clubber’s full-dress uniform that is noticed by audience members after a Glee Club show. The original medallions worn by the Glee Club were furnished by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in thanks for charity work done for MS. In 1990, the NMSS discontinued the production of these medallions, and they ceased to become a part of the full-dress uniform.

In the fall of 1991, the Glee Club acquired new medallions with the Purdue seal on the front and Glee Club Pete on the back in commemoration of the group’s upcoming centennial (1893-1993). The Purdue seal has two prominent features: the griffin, which symbolized strength in medieval heraldry, and the three-part shield, which represents the three stated aims of Purdue — education, research and service. As Purdue’s “finest ambassadors,” it is appropriate that the seal is worn as a prominent part of the Varsity Glee Club’s full-dress uniform.

World Travels[edit]

The Varsity Glee Club has traveled throughout the continental U.S. and abroad, including to China, the British Isles the South Pacific, and South Africa. The most recent of which being a European Tour in the Summer of 2013. They will be going to Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania the summer of 2017. As ambassadors, the Glee Club spreads the message of Purdue and the Purdue Musical Organization all over the world.

Purdue Christmas Show[edit]

The Purdue Christmas show, which was begun in 1933, takes place in the Edward C. Elliott Hall of Music. The First Christmas Show was held in 1933 in Fowler Hall.

There are six presentations of the Christmas show, which is seen by more than 30,000 people live.[citation needed] The Christmas show is made up of performances by the Varsity Glee Club, the Purduettes, the Purdue Bell Choir, University Choir, Heart and Soul, Purdue Kids Choir and the All Campus and Community Chorale.

Construction on the sets for the Christmas show begins in the summer. It takes three months to build the set, two weeks to put it on stage and fine tune things, hundreds of gallons of paint, and nearly 1,000 yards of fabric to create the sets, props, floor drop, screens, and custom curtain.


  1. ^ a b "Purdue Varsity Glee Club | Purdue Musical Organizations". www.purdue.edu. Retrieved 2017-03-11.  horizontal tab character in |title= at position 28 (help)
  2. ^ a b Purdue Musical organizations. Purdue Varsity Glee Club: History. accessed 1 Feb. 2007.

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