At a school with over 125 years of history, traditions have had a long time to emerge, grow, and renew themselves. Which traditions are continuous, and which ones are new?

Sometimes as an alumnus or even as a long-term employee of a school like Menaul, it is difficult to understand why traditions must evolve. Think of how it feels when something you love is suddenly changed—we attach our memories to things like school songs, which can play an important part in our memories when we look back.

And yet, sometimes a refresh is needed, to capture the hearts of a whole new generation.

Menaul Panther

Mascot Trivia: Changing Traditions

Think of this—the Menaul mascot used to be a tiger! The 1920 Yearbook (“The Sandstorm”) mentions “The Menaul Team better known as the Tigers entered their fighting contest with the motto ‘victory or death’ ending in complete victory . . . Menaul Tigers won their reputation by defeating the State Miners.”

In 1924 we see reference to the “Panthers” beating their “hard-hitting” opponent twice.

There is a gap in yearbooks between those two dates. There are surely some stories lost in time, as to why Menaul emerged as the Panthers, not the Tigers!

Creating A New School Song

At the January 2022 board meeting, choral director Leon Lake and his choir students gave a special presentation. The occasion? Mr. Lake created a new Alma Mater (school anthem) as well as a shorter, more student-centered school song.

Check out the full lyrics to each.

Mr. Lake

What’s the Difference Between Our Alma Mater and the School Song?

Mr. Lake stated that the Alma Mater is intentionally longer. From his experience, he said that the alma mater for a school is harder to “get into” when you’re still a student. But years afterward, it becomes nostalgic as you look back at your school experiences. An Alma Mater likely has more detail, and wording that is a little more formal.

The school song, which has a refrain of “Sea La Luz” (“Be the Light”) is shorter. It has a modern, catchier tune for today’s students. The school song is intentionally short, so students can learn and repeat it easily.

Mr. Lake said that when the students were practicing the two songs, their feedback was that the alma mater was “cheesy.” However, as soon as they started practicing the school song, they got into it. They found the lyrics and tune inspiring. You can tell, by how gently and thoughtfully they sing the song.

Listen to the Menaul School choir singing “Sea La Luz”

School Song

There’s a light inside you that wants to be free

While you figure out who you want to be

Just let it shine so everyone can see

And become the person you’re meant to be

Sea la luz

Sea la luz

And become who you choose

Sea la luz

Sea la luz

And carry the light inside of you.

–Lyrics by Leon Lake

What About Earlier Versions of the Alma Mater and School Song?

Menaul School has had a school song for many years. The first example we found is from 1942, written by Emily (Giron) Buck. The lyrics were featured in the yearbook that year (yes, we have a collection of yearbooks in the Menaul School Historic Library that go waaaaay back).

The chorus of the song called “Alma Mater” references the fact that the students are “coming from the hills, seeking light and truth”. Historically, students came to Menaul from many small towns all over northern New Mexico, and throughout the state.

We Shine Bright: “Sea La Luz”

Beloved choir director Keith Cass wrote another version in 1993 called “There Is a Light.”

The refrain:

Sea la luz,

show the light for our lives

And that is true.

Sea la luz, Menaul School we thank God for you.

Each version was meaningful to the students for many years, speaking to them in a way that only music can.

Music Speaks to Our Emotions

Music is such a significant part of our lives, because of how it immediately speaks to our emotions. In fact, music alters our brains—in a good way!

Thus we’re excited to unveil the next generation’s songs, which are centered around the longtime school motto, Sea La Luz (Be the Light).

Foray into School Traditions—and Fun Cultural Facts!

Menaul Singers

What about some other traditions at Menaul School? I sat down with a few yearbooks to look for common threads. As mentioned, we have yearbooks that go back to the early 1900s.

However, they were more like literary magazines in the days when, to capture someone’s likeness, it required a camera the size of a microwave oven.

It would be SO fun to go through every single yearbook, tracking the traditions and sayings of each decade, but that project will have to happen on another day . . .

As expected, even in brief review, there were a few gems, shared below.

Reading Senior Wills and Lots of Dances in 1958

Menaul Homecoming in the 50’s

Under last will and testament (senior quotes): “I, Andrew Aragon, will my job of cleaning Bennett Hall washroom to Riley. Keep it clean.”

“I, Angie Allemand, will my 6:30 position in the telephone booth to Carla Duran.”

There was mention of a “first homecoming dance” that was nearly sabotaged by rainy weather. The yearbook staff featured many dances, music and drama performances, and put the spotlight on many of the same sports we have today. Clearly football and track were big!

Some significant differences? Of course, the 1950’s attire, and the slang used at the time. You see students describing each other as “gone”, or affectionately nicknaming each other “Dodo”.

Home Econ class (all girls) put on an “annual Christmas Tea Party”. And there was evidence of significant hazing of new lettermen, including forcing a student to pretend to be a baby, wearing nothing but a big diaper to class.

Not sure we could do that these days—or would want to? But you can see the school spirit on every page.

Service, Chores, and Fun in 1965

The Sandstorm yearbook 1965

You see photos of Senior Bible classes, working on the front yard of Penasco Presbyterian church, laying down a new coat of gravel. Kids in striped cardigan sweaters and rolled up jeans are shoveling gravel out of the back of a big farm truck.

Through the UPYF (Universal Presbyterian Youth Council) students build up interest and participation in the entire religious program. They sponsor all special events including holy week and communion services. As a group, they meet and have “discussions on discrimination, boy and girl relationships, peace, and other timely topics. . . Parties, indoors and out, have pleased the fussiest”.

You’ll see several photos of dorm students ironing their clothes and doing other chores. Also, waiting for a turn on the phone in the girls’ dorm!

Can you imagine walking into today’s dorm each morning to see a bunch of boys ironing their shirts?

Menaul students served as candy stripers or dental assistants at the medical center on campus. They also worked in the Albuquerque community in those roles.

The medical center has been converted to staff housing, but last I checked still had labels taped to the kitchen shelving listing medical supplies. Kind of sweet that the different tenants haven’t wanted to remove these last traces of the medical center.

A Sense of Community in 1982

Inside the 1981-82 Menaul School yearbook

In the 1982 yearbook, you’ll find the following quote that explains the school’s spiritual culture quite well:

“Whether it be sitting in chapel listening to Mr. Quinones, watching Elaine sacred dance, or reading the Bible, we regard all of these as forms of worshipping. Each of us has the opportunity to share with others our own personal feelings on worship. We each are given the chance to take over a chapel. In it, we are able to express ourselves in our own way.” p. 15

Around these years, you’ll see the classic senior photos on the front steps of Donaldson Hall.

You also see mention of “Mini Week” (compare to our current Mission Week):

“. . .Groups of students go to Grand Canyon to learn how to survive in harsh conditions in the wilderness. Groups of students also go to San Francisco to learn more about and help handicapped people. We can feel a sense of accomplishment after learning something new and putting it to use in our society. . .”

I would love to hear stories about our students learning to “survive in harsh conditions in the wilderness” -you can bet there are some good stories based on those adventures.

What are the Top Continuous Traditions—Big Picture?

  • Service
  • Faith and worship
  • Community
  • Music
  • Sports
  • Dances
  • Inclusivity and diversity
  • Sea La Luz

Our new Alma Mater will someday be looked back upon with nostalgia. We are grateful to Mr. Lake for his effort to create, plan, arrange, and teach these songs so that future generations will enjoy them.

Those who are lost have now found their place

Here at Menaul we grow into grace

We learn to carry light in the world

Come on and join us here at Menaul.

This post was researched and written by Amy Boldt. Photos and video by Nicole Soriano, except header image by Marla Brose.

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