The Montclair State community gathered on June 22 to celebrate retiring President Susan A. Cole at the rededication of College Hall in her name.
Now known as Susan A. Cole Hall, the University’s iconic 113-year-old Mission Revival building that once housed the entire school, recently reopened after being completely renovated and expanded.
“It is fitting that we rededicate College Hall to formally honor President Cole, who, as the University’s eighth president, and first female president, has led the University through its remarkable period of growth and transformation,” Francis M. Cuss, chair of the Board of Trustees, said in remarks to an appreciative crowd of friends and colleagues attending the rededication, which was followed by tours of the building conducted by Student Ambassadors.
“Rededicating College Hall in Dr. Cole’s name is the most fitting honor the Board of Trustees can bestow,” Cuss said. “Her approach to renovating this building, which honors its past, while preparing it to serve the needs of the students of today and tomorrow, exemplifies what she has done for the entire institution for the past 23 years.”
As she thanked Cuss and the Board of Trustees, President Cole said that when College Hall first opened as a Normal School in 1908, Principal Charles S. Chapin said leaders accepted the state’s trust and would do the best they knew how to do. Since then, she said, generations have accepted that trust and done the best they knew how to do.
“I feel grateful that I can leave the institution knowing that I did do everything that I could do and I’m satisfied with that. I also know what I did was only what a whole lot of other people did. I could not go from point A to point B without the extraordinary people working by my side,” Cole said, giving a nod to the board, faculty and staff.
“We did our best. We did what in our time we could do, and now there will be the next generation, and I am absolutely convinced that they will do the best that they can do and the University will continue to change and evolve as an institution.…It will continue to grow and develop under new leadership.”
With its signature red tiles, tin ceilings and wood finishes restored, Cole Hall now includes a soaring glass atrium which houses Red Hawk Central, where students can get help with financial aid, course registration and more, including tutoring, advising. “At its essence, it is the one-stop shop to serve students, which has always been the University’s focus,” Cuss said.
Over the decades, generations of students have passed through its doors as the institution has grown from the New Jersey State Normal School at Montclair, with an initial class of 187, to become a doctoral research university with a highly diverse student body of more than 21,000.
College Hall has represented “the heart and soul of Montclair State,” Cuss said during the rededication ceremony. “College Hall is iconic, representing Montclair State’s foundation and its core – literally and symbolically at the center of what the University does and stands for.”
Early on, crews working on the renovation knew they had something special with the building. Workers found notes on the attic walls to students heading to World War II wishing their safe return. Other mementos were also discovered, but the most fascinating of all was a message in a bottle that tumbled out of a wall that was torn down during renovations.
The note left by bricklayers dated July 3, 1907, is among the oldest on record and a metaphor for the muscle and sweat that brought public education to life in Montclair, New Jersey.
“Indeed, in her 23 years of leadership, President Cole has upheld the ideals of Montclair State – creating an institution of academic excellence and increasing its accessibility to ensure that more people can transform their lives through higher education and become informed citizens who are so important to our state and country,” Cuss said.
Earlier in the day, the name change was formally adopted by the Board of Trustees, which voted unanimously to name the building Susan A. Cole Hall.
“In naming Susan A. Cole Hall, we are keeping President Cole’s legacy front and center on campus, symbolizing the spirit and tenacity of the University to live up to its ‘Carpe Diem’ motto to Seize the Day – and to serve and achieve,” Cuss said.
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