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Dr. Linda Mack Berven engages choral students to develop new alma mater song

Dr. Linda Mack Berven directs the concert choir in the new alma mater.

When Dene Kay Thomas took the helm as president at Fort Lewis College, one item on her long list of priorities was to revise the college’s alma mater, which had not been rewritten since the 1960s. In fall 2011, Dr. Linda Mack Berven, director of choral activities at Fort Lewis, happily stepped up to the task.

Dr. Linda Mack Berven

“Traditionally, the alma mater is a special song of a school that reflects the nature of that school,” says Dr. Mack Berven. Staying true to alma mater tradition, she researched church hymnals to find the right tune that could be adapted for a Fort Lewis alma mater. When she came across “We Sing the Glorious Conquest,” written in the late 19th century and harmonized by renowned composer Felix Mendelssohn, Dr. Mack Berven knew instantly it was perfect. “It’s a beautiful harmony and a simple melody in the right range so anyone could easily sing it.”

Dr. Mack Berven brought the hymn to her Choral Methods class of seven music education majors and gave them perhaps the most meaningful assignment of their college careers: help her write a new college alma mater. “I invited them to talk about what Fort Lewis means to them, to come up with words that capture what Fort Lewis is all about,” says Dr. Mack Berven. Armed with her students’ reflections, she composed the alma mater to the tune of Mendelssohn’s hymn:

To you, Fort Lewis College, our Alma Mater dear,
We sing of pride and honor, our thanks from far and near;
Our glorious tradition, community so true;
With loyalty and service, we pledge our love to you.

The Fort Lewis College Alma Mater was unveiled to the public on October 21 at the first combined concert choir/symphonic band concert of the school year, entitled, “A Centennial Celebration.” Band Director Dr. Mark Walters arranged the alma mater for the band, writing the various parts for each instrument. “This was very much a joint effort of music faculty, my students, and President Thomas and her husband, Gordon,” says Dr. Mack Berven. “In Fort Lewis College’s centennial year, it is an honor to develop a timeless song that will last through the centuries.”

After earning her doctorate in music education from the University of Illinois and starting her career as a high school music teacher, Dr. Mack Berven joined Fort Lewis College in 1982. She developed the college’s choral and music education program. In 2010, Dr. Mack Berven retired from Fort Lewis, but was brought back for the 2011-2012 school year. “It’s very special that I came back in time for this,” she admits. “I’ve truly enjoyed this experience. I just love these students—I cannot say enough. They really care about our college and it made this a labor of love.” As for the finished product, Dr. Mack Berven couldn’t be happier. “This alma mater is a fitting tribute to the legacy of Fort Lewis College.”

Watch the concert choir sing the Alma Mater here:

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