May 27, 2016
A new tradition: VCU Alumni adopts the university's first alma mater
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Lemont “Monty” Kier, Ph.D., likes variety.
“I like to do a little bit of everything,” said Monty, who joined Virginia Commonwealth University in 1977 as chair of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry in the School of Pharmacy – a position he held for 10 years. Now a professor emeritus in the school, he also holds positions with Life Sciences in the Center for the Study of Biological Complexity and with the Department of Nursing Anesthesia in the School of Allied Health Professions.
But even that’s not enough variety for Monty.
He has nine books under his belt and has been published in close to 300 publications. He has spent 20 of his 85 years painting – something he picked up with no formal training. While that is plenty to be proud of, he’s probably most proud of his latest work, lyrics for VCU’s first-ever alma mater, “We Gather Here.”
He didn't set out to write a legacy. Rather, over the years he took to jotting down whatever popped into his head. “I wrote about walking to campus, which I love to do. Just getting out and visiting somebody. And several months went by. I had this thing on my desk, had a few spare moments and fiddled with it. … I didn’t known what we had or didn’t have.”
He didn’t even realize VCU has never had an alma mater until a few months ago when Gordon McDougall, associate vice president for alumni relations, mentioned it in conversation.
“I began to build this up,” Monty said. “I had written most [of it] with no particular purpose when I found out there wasn’t an alma mater.”
To be the university’s theme song, his lyrics needed music. So he sent the lyrics to his son Andrew Kier, who graduated in 1990 from the Department of Music in the VCU School of Arts and now lives in Ohio.
“I wanted something very stately and dignified and worthy of an alma mater,” Andrew said. It took about two weeks to finish the harmony and melody and structure of the lyrics. He scored it for a four-voice chorus – soprano, alto, tenor and bass – and the four parts can also be played on the piano.
It was the first collaboration between father and son, and Andrew said that even though they are eight hours apart geographically, it brought them closer together. “I’m very happy that it worked out the way it did.”
As a VCU alumnus, Andrew thinks the alma mater comes at a time when the university is ready for it. The VCU Alumni Board of Governors voted “We Gather Here” the official VCU anthem about a month ago.
“Our new alma mater means even more because it was written by two people so closely associated with VCU,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “Monty and Andrew’s collaboration is greatly appreciated. I look forward to hearing the song performed at university events. It truly captures the spirit of our university and our dedication to diversity and enriching lives.”
Monty is pleased to make yet another contribution the university.
“I hope that it brings happiness and pleasure,” he said. “It’s just wonderful to write this or that and have it translate ultimately into something useful.”
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