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Mottos of American Universities

Updated on March 15, 2018
Chase Chartier profile image

Chase is a recent graduate of Azusa Pacific University with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management and a minor in Biblical Studies.

American Education Origins

This is more of an observation post. I'll leave any speculation to the readers, since some might come to different conclusions. I was watching a series about American history, and the story began to cover early education. I was surprised to see just how long some of the colleges in America have been around, yet I was even more surprised at their mottos. Some of the earliest American universities are now considered Ivy League. Some believe this refers to north-eastern American universities that have been around for many years and have gained a title of prestige. While this is true, it also has to do with the athletic conference they are a part of. It started with four colleges, and was believed to be called the IV League, hence the term "Ivy League". As I mentioned before, their mottos may give insight to the original intent of the schools. Their mission was to educate, obviously, but their vision reached further than that, and I believe that vision is encapsulated in the mottos they conceived. Let's take a look at some of the mottos of the prestigious IV- I mean Ivy League.

Ivy League Mottos

Harvard University

Of course, we'll start with Harvard University. Established in 1636, Harvard's motto was Christo et Ecclesiae or "For Christ and Church". Woah, not quite politically correct, but for a long time this was their motto. Recently this motto has been revised to Veritas or "Truth".

Brown University

Brown University (1764) has the motto In Deo Speramus or "In God We Hope". Similar to what you see on American coins. Most universities have a Latin theme by the way.

Columbia University

This tongue-twister from 1754 is In Lumine Tuo Videbimus Lumen, translating to "In thy light we shall see light".

Dartmouth University

Founded in 1769, Dartmouth's motto is Vox Clamantis in Deserto, or "A Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness". It is taken from Isaiah 40:3, and is believed to be in reference to their dedication to evangelizing the surrounding Native Americans.

Yale University

Yale was founded in 1701, and had the simple motto of Lux et Veritas, translated "Light and Truth". Just don't ask the philosophy majors about it..

Cornell University

A younger university founded in 1865, Cornell's motto is “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.” Right to the point.

Princeton University

Founded in 1746, Princeton's motto Dei Sub Numine Viget lasted for over two centuries before it was changed to "In the Nation's service and the Service of Humanity". It's original translation? "Under the Protection of God She Flourishes".

University of Pennsylvania

In 1740 the University of Pennsylvania was founded and given the motto Leges sine moribus vane, meaning "Laws without Morals are Useless". A worthwhile reminder.

A Few Centuries Later

I hope you found this to be an interesting observation. I'll add more mottos below, but I thought these well known schools should be noted first. I think the next thing to do after seeing this is examine the atmosphere of these universities and see what they are like now. Is there a difference in attitude toward these mottos amongst students? Do the universities believe they've embodied the original vision of each institution? Maybe their beliefs on where the universities should head next has changed? Are they better off? Worse off? Whatever factors you believe might contribute to any similarities or differences in university beliefs, it is still a fascinating subject that shows us where we were and where we might be headed as a nation.


I'll talk a bit about my university's motto, but first, the winner for strangest motto has to go to this college founded in the late 60's.

Evergreen State College: Omnia Extares or “Let it all hang out.”

I graduated from Azusa Pacific University, a private Christian school in southern California. Our motto was simply "God First". It was mentioned in most of our chapels and stamped across the wall of our gymnasium. It was often reflected in student conduct yet sometimes I found that people had their own gods that were put first. Either way, it stuck with me through college and afterward as well. Post in the comment section what your university motto was!

© 2018 Chase Chartier


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    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Interesting article, Chase. No motto to report here, but I also went to a private Christian College - Northeast Baptist College.

    • CaribTales profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Principia non Homines! Principles not men!


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