Sepia-toned photos of Zella Melcher and Phyllis Sayles as young women are foreground to the hand-annotated sheet music for the Washington State Fight Song.
Zella Melcher and Phyllis Sayles composed the Washington State Fight Song as WSC students in 1919

A century ago, as the patriotic fervor from World War I began to subside, students at Washington State College found themselves uninspired by the songs associated with their school, according to university archivist Mark O’English. Two senior music majors, Zella Melcher of Spokane, Wash., and Phyllis Sayles of Lapwai, Idaho, took on the task of writing new music to energize the student body.

Soon to be 100 years old, the Washington State Fight Song is the Cougar Nation’s familiar and much‑loved anthem. A new exhibit at WSU’s Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections celebrates the iconic song as well as the two women who wrote it.

“When you think about the things that make WSU unique, the fight song is certainly one of them,” said O’English, who is the exhibit curator. “It has gained a place in popular culture and been used as wakeup music for space shuttle astronauts.”

“Win the Day for Crimson and Gray: Celebrating a Century of the Fight Song” opens with a reception 3–4:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at MASC in Terrell Library. The exhibit is open for viewing during MASC’s regular hours, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday–Friday, and will remain up through the final full week of April.

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