Meet the Man Who Wrote the Hanover Park High School Alma Mater

Photos courtesy of Eugene Thomas

 

 

By Steve Sears

Hanover Park High School Alma Mater

Eugene Thomas, former choir director at Hanover Park High School, had made the trek south from his current home in Maine to the Thursday evening, May 26, 2022 Hanover Park High School choral concert.

No doubt as he drove for those six and 1/2 hours, he reflected on his many years spent at the school, and the many memories of the people that he worked with. On the flip side of that coin, his former students thought so much of him that, on this special Thursday evening, they had planned for weeks via social media to head up on stage and join the chorus and sing a very special song, the Hanover Park High School Alma Mater, which Thomas wrote in 1968.

“It was a great time,” Thomas says of the evening of the 26th. “We enjoyed the concert. I had like 20 of my former students show up just to join, one from as far away as South Carolina.”

Those 20 students, as well as the 50-member current choir, joined forces on stage and all sang together:

From Atlantic’s churning shore, to the peaceful Delaware,

In this land that we adore, there’s a school beyond compare.

Hanover Park so bold accept our loud acclaim. 

Lift high the black and gold for Alma Mater’s name.

“I was delighted,” Thomas says enthusiastically while recalling the song’s genesis. “When I wrote that thing, I wrote a script because they didn’t have an Alma Mater. I didn’t even know whether it would go, but it did. When we closed each year, the final number of the final concert of the year was always the Alma Mater. For us, it was something that we did. But the fact that had continued without me there, that somebody else thought highly enough of that number and they use it, too, I was very pleased, excited, and honored.”

Hanover Park High School Alma Mater

Thomas, 88, graduated from Indiana University in Pennsylvania, earning both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music Education. He taught for six years in Pennsylvania and then moved to New Jersey in 1965, when he began teaching at Hanover Park High School. While there, he also sang professionally in New York as a tenor and counter tenor, and was Minister of Music of the First Presbyterian Church in East Hanover, and Calvary Presbyterian Church in Florham Park. He taught at HPHS from 1965 until his 1990 retirement. Thomas was not only involved in the music program, but also the drama program as well, he in charge of shows in the fall and spring, with an additional children’s show towards the end of the school year as well. “There’s so much,” Thomas says. “As a matter of fact, one year I was also the assistant girls track coach. I have great memories of that school. I loved not only the chorus and teaching private, multiple lessons, but I also was able to teach a course called Fundamentals of Music, which was not fundamentals, it was quite advanced. Some of the students that went through that course were able to pass over their first year of college because it was very, very advanced. I had great students and I had great support from the rest of the music department.”

 “The 25 years I had there was probably the best 25 years of my life,” Thomas says. He again revisits Thursday evening, May 26. “We (he and his students) had a good relationship. Just after the concert that night, I must have had my picture taken 50 times.”

Thomas’s song, and the words he wrote back in 1968, still sit on two separate pieces of sheet music. There is without a doubt a legacy attached to it. When you look at the words, you can imagine Thomas writing them 54 years ago, and picture the many spring concerts which were appropriately ended with the lyrics lovingly belted out by the choir. “I’m very proud to have done that,” Thomas says of the Alma Mater. “But I’m really pleased that the people who sing it like it. That’s important to me, and I absolutely loved working at Hanover Park.”

 

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