Beck and Purdy

Carl Beck
Carl Beck

Carl Beck Biography (lyricist) 

Carl Beck was born in New Haven, Connecticut and first attended Hamilton College in 1906, where he played football. At this time, he met William Purdy, a senior, through the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and they became roommates.

In 1907 Beck left school to earn money, ultimately deciding to attend Wisconsin in 1908. In 1909, he left Wisconsin, to earn money for tuition, and moved to Chicago where he was reunited with Purdy, and the song was written. Beck returned to Wisconsin for the 1911/1912 academic year. The lyricist later became a trust adviser to Chase National Bank in New York.

Beck returned as a guest at the 1941 homecoming (pictured below), again in 1950, when he introduced a new verse to the song to the annual Freshman Convocation at the Stock Pavilion, and yet again for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of “On Wisconsin!” at the October 24, 1959 game against Ohio State. Carl Beck died in 1965.

1950 Lyrics

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Stand up, Badgers, sing!
“Forward” is our driving spirit,
Loyal voices ring.
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Raise her glowing flame
Stand, Fellows, let us now
Salute her name!

Beck was also a frequent contributor to the Wisconsin Alumni Magazine. Click here to search for articles by or about Carl Beck. Select “Search only the full text”.

W.T. Purdy
W.T. Purdy

W.T. Purdy Biography (composer)

William Purdy was born in Aurora, New York in 1882. Purdy graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York in 1906. While working in Chicago in 1909, Purdy began coaching glee club and performing piano to supplement his income. Purdy came up with a melody on the piano, which Beck overheard, and “On Wisconsin!” was born.

In 1917, Purdy fell sick with tuberculosis. Upon receiving news of this, Beck began fundraising and sent $2,500 for Purdy’s family. After his death in 1918, the University of Wisconsin provided his two children with scholarships. His daughter, Marylois Purdy Vega became an associate editor of Time magazine. The family fought a bitter dispute with Beck over the true authorship of the song from the time of Purdy’s death on.

As a tribute to the legacy of Bill Purdy, band director Mike Leckrone performed a new arrangement of another tune by Purdy entitled “Cabaret Rag” at the 1992 spring concert.

(image of Purdy from the Milwaukee Journal, November 15, 1931)