“Beneath the Jersey skies so blue,
In Montclair’s mountain town,
There stands our College tried and true
And growing in renown…”
The familiar notes chime from the top of College Hall’s bell
tower, and at all the University’s convocations and commencement ceremonies,
but few know the story of the woman who penned these timeless lines.
Evelyn Hock Walter, the daughter of a Presbyterian pastor,
entered the Normal School at Montclair in 1923, and went on to a long and
distinguished teaching career, but she is best remembered by the Montclair
State University community as the author and composer of the alma mater.
In this Centennial year, her daughter, Evie Walter Richards,
with her husband Ty Richards ’71 M.A., traced her mother’s footsteps and came
to visit the campus and see their grandson, Tyler Curtis Richards III, a
Montclair State student.
“My mother was always very musical,” recalls Richards. “Our
house was filled with the sounds of her on the piano, and she sang hymns with
all of us children every day.”
In 1925, during Evelyn Hock’s second year, she entered a
competition sponsored by the Music Department for a school song, and after
performing her composition for the faculty, she won in a “hands down”
victory. The song was immediately
adopted by the school and has been the official school song ever since.
In spite of this early musical success, Walter focused her
life’s work on teaching, not music.
After graduation, she devoted herself to the profession, and spent most
of her career teaching primary and secondary grades in South Orange and
Passaic. She made such an impact on her
students that many of them remembered her long into adulthood. Some, such as Dominick Massaro, kept in touch
as they went off to serve in World War II and then returned to civilian
life. “As time goes by, my mind often
wanders to the happiest time of my school days,” recalled the former student at
Walter’s retirement party, “the days when I was fortunate enough to be a pupil
in Mrs. Walter’s 6B class. Her love for
her students, her devotion to her profession and her all-around goodness will
always be cherished in my memories.”
Richards, on her recent visit to campus, remarked that she thinks her mother would be proud of the changes to the University that have taken place over the years. “She was a ‘born teacher’ and always so involved with students,” says Richards, “so I think the diversity of the students at Montclair would have especially pleased her.”