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How the Angells changed OBU

December 14, 2004

The year: 1936. A heat wave marks Dr. Warren M. Angell’s arrival to campus as OBU’s new dean of the College of Fine Arts. Today, the college is named in honor of his long legacy. 

“I know that my mother must have sung all during those months before I was born,” Warren reflected in an interview once, “For I have literally sung all my life.” Making beautiful sounds, humming, whistling, listening, catching a melody, this is what his family remembers about his boyhood. Music was the center of the Angell family life. Warren began piano lessons at the age of 7, and at the age of 8, he became his father’s accompanist. At 12, he played piano for his father’s dance orchestra until the Musician’s Union protested that the boy was too young to be a union member and he had to quit.

Throughout his life, Warren’s mother encouraged him toward serious music study, and, since money was tight, he became responsible for teaching his three brothers how to play the piano. Upon graduation from high school, he was offered a scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for civil engineering. He told his high school music teacher of his scholarship, and he remembers her replying, “Warren, you have a great music talent. I don’t want the Lord to take it back. And if you don’t want to lose it, you must use it and develop it.” Warren did not forget those words. 

He graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelor of music degree in 1929 just in time for the Wall Street crash followed by the Great Depression. No jobs were to be found. It was not until the second term during the 1934-35 school year that Warren and his bride, Evalyn, arrived in Murray, Kentucky, where Warren was head of the piano department at Murray State Teachers’ College. And, although, he had become content with his position, Warren signed up to come to OBU in 1936. 

In the spring of 1937, three students approached him about establishing a glee club. And, though Warren’s schedule was very full, he agreed to meet with the guys after supper. First, they learned to sing in unison. By the end of the semester, they were harmonizing. By the end of the year, there were plans for the fall semester, including recruitment of additional members, officers and a business manager and a decision on uniforms. The dean began to think of a theme song for the glee club (then dubbed Sangerbund), and it was on his way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by train that he composed, without a piano, the glee club theme song, “Let All Come Here Who Love Good Song.”

The Bison Glee Club made their first public appearance at the Commencement ceremonies in 1938, where J. Edgar Hoover was the speaker. And it was at this time that they premiered the OBU Anthem. The Bison Glee Club made their first recording in 1939-40. In1951-52, the Glee Club recorded their first album for commercial sale. The 10 percent royalty provided money for travel, uniforms and concert tours. By 1965, the Bison Glee Club had recorded 11 albums, and the Bison Glee Club maintained a full concert schedule, and made two appearances on national TV NBC and ABC in 1950. They performed for Pres. John F. Kennedy, and it was a favorite Bison Glee Club tape that OBU’s Astronaut pilot Col. William R. Pogue chose when SkylabII was launched for the 84-day mission in 1978.

In 1940-41 the Bison Glee Club was affected more than other campus organization when War recruitment cut membership down to 16. But, the men returned, and so, too, did the dean, with a brand-new doctorate from Columbia University. 

It was in 1956, on Warren Angell’s 30th anniversary at the university, the board of trustees voted to re-name the College of Fine Arts after him.  

Warren Angell retired in 1975 after directing the Bison Glee Club as emeritus for two years. At 97 years of age, he lives today, with his wife, Twyla, in Black Mountain, North Carolina.