November 10, 2010—Montclair State University has named a wing of The Heights, a new campus residence hall, in honor of New Jerseyan John Basilone, a World War II soldier who was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, as well as the Navy Cross. Basilone is the only Marine in U.S. history to be awarded both medals. He was killed in combat at Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945.
Presiding at the naming announcement in the Courtyard Lounge of University Hall were U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-8) and Montclair State University President Susan A. Cole. Also attending were Basilone’s niece, Diane Hawkins, representing the Basilone family and Montclair State seniors Corporal Daniel Koehler, a political science major, and Corporal Amanda Kuchta, who is majoring in Family and Child Studies. Both students are currently serving in the Marine Corps and attending Montclair State with the help of the federal Post 9/11 GI Bill.
“During this week, when we salute and honor our veterans, we are proud to name this wing of The Heights for one who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving his life in service to our country,” said President Cole. These new buildings will provide housing and dining space for resident students from all over New Jersey and beyond. They are also the very first outcome of the State’s Economic Stimulus Act that was passed in 2009 enabling public universities such as Montclair State to enter into public/private partnerships to build much-needed new facilities of the State’s colleges and universities.”
"On the eve of Veterans Day, I cannot think of a more deserving New Jerseyan for us to be celebrating and commemorating," said Congressman Pascrell, who championed the naming of the facility after Sgt. Basilone with Montclair State students as well as local veterans groups. "Sgt. Basilone's legacy is one of valor, courage, and patriotism that cannot easily be matched. Thank you to the students, faculty, and the Montclair State University community for choosing to honor such a great American. I know students who will live in this residence hall will revere Sergeant Basilone’s memory for years to come."
The residence halls, each with two wings, and a 25,000-square-foot dining facility is the first project authorized under the New Jersey Stimulus Act of 2009. The new state law allows the state’s public colleges and universities to form public-private partnerships for campus construction projects.
The $235-million project, known as The Heights, is located at the north end of the campus. Scheduled to open in September 2011, it will house 1,978 students. The new residence halls will increase the university’s current capacity of 3,000 beds by more than 50 percent. The project has created upwards of 800 jobs for New Jersey workers in all of the construction trades and building maintenance fields.
Basilone, who was from Raritan, New Jersey, served in the Army for three years and was discharged in 1937. He later joined the Marines and was sent to Guadalcanal in 1942. Gunnery Sergeant Basilone was instrumental in beating back a sustained Japanese attack for control of an airfield on the island.
He manned a machine gun and twice ran through a hail of bullets to retrieve ammunition on the night of October 24-25, 1942 for his small, decimated unit, which was far outnumbered by 3,000 Japanese. Cited for his “personal valor and courageous initiative,” he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Feted as a hero and sent home in July 1943, Basilone promised his men he would be back. Finally granted his wish to return to duty after being turned down twice, he again displayed extraordinary courage in combat at Iwo Jima, but was felled by a Japanese mortar shell. For his actions that day, he was awarded the Navy Cross.
In keeping with tradition, new buildings at Montclair State bear the names of deceased New Jerseyans who “have blazed new trails in their fields of endeavor.”
The remaining seven residence hall wings will be named at a future date.
Released: November 10, 2010