'I’ll Be Home for Christmas' Extra Special to Laurentians | St. Lawrence University

'I’ll Be Home for Christmas' Extra Special to Laurentians

By Chloe Mitchell ’21

With the holidays upon us, the much-loved song “I’ll be Home for Christmas” will top many students’ playlists during exam week and when minds begin to daydream about the upcoming snowy Christmas morning.

The popular song was written by J. Kimball “Kim” Gannon, a 1924 graduate of St. Lawrence. However, the fellow Laurentian had more in mind than just creating a simple tune to people into the Christmas spirit. When Gannon died in 1974, his will stipulated that St. Lawrence would receive 30 percent of the royalties from his compositions after his wife’s death. His widow, Norma Allen Gannon, St. Lawrence Class of 1925, passed away in 2000. Now each time one of Gannon’s songs is played commercially, St. Lawrence receives a portion of the royalties (and will for about another next three decades).

Since 2000, St. Lawrence has received more than $520,000 in royalties from Gannon’s music, with nearly $32,000 earned this year alone.

After finding out about this unique condition, St. Lawrence students were filled with thoughts and stories of listening to the Christmas tune.

Spencer Carpenter ’21 of Middlebury, Vermont, said, “I think the fact that this song is a rich resource for St. Lawrence is not even the best part. More importantly, it shows how Gannon was still passionate about St. Lawrence even years after attending. The benefits of the royalties are just the cherry on top of this perfect Christmas melody.”

Carpenter isn’t the only student who thinks this song is a staple and part of the identity of St. Lawrence. Sarah Bercorvitz ’19 of Oneonta, New York, stated, “It’s just another part of this campus that makes St. Lawrence so special.”

The song not only brings students on campus together but also bonds alumni and families. Madison Cring ’21 of Pleasanton, California, and her father and mother, Andrew Cring ’92 and Nicole Cring ’91, listen to this song every Christmas.

“‘I’ll be Home for Christmas’ is a really popular song to be heard in my house during the holidays,” Madison said. “When we go to holiday get togethers, one of us always requests it to be played because, well, we love it, and we also know that it financially benefits every St. Lawrence student.”  

The song was popularized by Bing Crosby in 1943 and became a top-10 hit that year. Since its debut, more than 250 artists and groups have recorded “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” including Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Ann Murray, Amy Grant and Michael Bublé. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) named “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” the 10th most-performed holiday song of the century. It has become the title for three movies, and it was specifically requested by astronauts Frank Borman and James Lovell, as they descended back to earth in December of 1965. 

As students embark on long, snowy paths home for the holidays, the song will be heard (and or requested) by many Laurentian-filled cars, much like the Gemini 7 spacecraft crew did.

Tarrah Price ’21 will be traveling home to Toronto after exams with her sister, Ali Price ’19. “Ali and I love to play this song while we make the lengthy road trip home,” Tarrah said. “I was really involved with the Campaign in the fall, and this adds a new dimension of opportunity and love for St. Lawrence students. To think this is just another way to give to the well-being of campus really brings so much more meaning to the song for us.”

Learn more about the G. Atwood Manley Society for planned giving

While “I’ll be Home for Christmas” is sung from the point of view of a soldier stationed overseas during World War II who is writing a letter to his family back home, it continues to touch a number of people and St. Lawrence students alike.

Charlotte Childs ’22 of New Canaan, Connecticut, said, “I’ve been going to boarding school and now St. Lawrence for about four years. During the last week of classes, I listen to this song because it reminds me of going home for the holidays. It’s a beautiful song and it reminds us to travel near and far to spend time with the ones we love.”

Listen to St. Lawrence University's Laurentian Singers perform “I'll Be Home For Christmas.”