Alma Mater composer made an impact on Wayland
PLAINVIEW – Though he served only nine school years in total, music professor Guy Woods made quite an impact on the small West Texas college known now as Wayland Baptist University.
Woods is probably best known for penning the school’s alma mater 60 years ago, back when the school was just becoming a four-year college. Sung at every convocation chapel – marking the opening of each fall semester on the Plainview campus – as well as every graduation ceremony and many athletic games in Hutcherson Center, the Alma Mater is a lasting legacy to Woods and to the university he served, though briefly.
Woods originally came to Wayland in 1933 as assistant professor of music, serving through 1940. Since the school was small, most faculty and students knew one another, and Woods was a popular member of the teaching staff. He served as senior class adviser in 1938-39, and that year’s edition of The Traveler yearbook was dedicated to him.
Following a stint away, Woods returned to Wayland in 1948 to serve as chair of the music department, teach piano and organ and accompany the choir among his teaching duties. After writing the alma mater, Woods again had the yearbook dedicated in his honor, this time in the 1949 edition.
“He is one of the ‘swellest’ and best loved persons on the campus,” the dedication read, including a full-page photo of Woods by his studio piano. The endsheets of the book also featured the sheet music from the song. The next year, he served as junior class sponsor.
Not much other information about Woods can be found in Wayland’s historical files, and until the alma mater was penned, the only musical piece printed in the Traveler was the school’s first fight song. Written in 1929 by piano teacher Vesta Hollingsworth Mabry, the song “Old Wayland Is Marching” was a popular tune and appeared in nearly every edition for several years, considered in effect the school song.
Jeannine Greene, WBU alum of 1954 and a longtime music teacher at Wayland herself, was a student of Woods while still in high school and remembers fondly his jovial nature.
“I remember that he had polio or other infirmity, as he walked with a limp and wore a built-up shoe,” recalled Greene, who took organ lessons from 1948-50 from Woods. “But he was always happy and everyone loved him. He was a delightful person.”
Greene said her favorite memory of Woods involved helping her rehearse on a Sunday morning to substitute for the organist at First Baptist Church. One given to humor and dramatics, Woods was not content to simply stand beside his young organist but wanted to simulate the service for her.
“I played my prelude, and he’d start singing (like he was the director) and he’d sing off-key and get tickled,” she laughed. “When I got to the offertory, he grabbed an offering plate and dropped some change in and walked up and down the aisles dropping in change. We just both laughed, but by the time I got through, I was over most of my nervousness.”
Woods died in April 1950 as the school year was drawing to a close, and a memorial tribute in the Wayland World school newspaper mentioned him writing a fight song as well as the alma mater. According to Tim Kelley, director of instrumental studies at Wayland, the current fight song was not penned by Woods, and no records can be found of his composition.
The Alma Mater, however, is somewhat of a sacred song at Wayland, taught to incoming
freshmen and repeated often enough for most to learn the words by heart by the time
they graduate. Kelley and the Pioneer Marching Band recorded the song for downloading
online, found under the past students section on www.wbu.edu.
On the Plains of Texas where the wind sings loud her name,
Gateway to a world resplendent, far and wide her fame.
Where the caprock’s firm foundation meets a sky of blue,
Stands our Alma Mater, Wayland True!
Wayland for Thy understanding, love and gracious care,
For thy hopes, thy faith in youth, so kind, and deep and rare,
May we ever keep thy spirit strong, thy courage bold!
Pioneering Wayland, Hail thy Blue and Gold.