For Norma, a Hall of Fame
When Norma Walker ’51 climbed the stairs to the stage at the 2018 Reunion Awards Luncheon held in the Student Center, she knew that Keene State President Melinda Treadwell ’90 would be saying a few words to thank her for her service to the College Alumni Office. But she wasn’t prepared for a video that revealed that Centennial Hall, the meeting room in the Alumni Center, had been renamed in her honor.
“In recognition of a much-appreciated and much-loved member of the Alumni Office team, and in recognition of her decades of service to Keene State College and its alumni, as of September 15, 2018, this room shall be known as Norma Walker Hall,” read President Treadwell. On the video screen behind them, two former alumni directors, Mike Maher ’72 and Patty Farmer ’92, unveiled a photo and plaque that had been installed outside the new Norma Walker Hall.
Walker, who had invited friends and family to the event, was floored. “I looked at the screen and they were taking the banner down to show the plaque,” she remembers. “Tears came and I think I ended up crying on Dr. Treadwell’s shoulder. It was just overwhelming and it still is.”
Walker graduated from Keene Teachers College in 1951; she came back to earn a master’s degree in 1959. Over 32 years, she taught elementary school students, specializing in reading. She also taught in Keene State’s Education Department for six years. But she didn’t discover until after she retired and was elected to the Alumni Association Board that the College had a lot to offer to its graduates.
“I realized there are programs here you could be a part of. Athletic programs, concerts – all sorts of things were happening here on campus that alumni should be involved with,” says Walker.
As many older alumni know, Walker has long been the driving force behind the Golden Circle Society, the group for people who graduated 50 or more years ago. For 24 years, she ran the Golden Circle single-handedly, organizing luncheons and keeping in touch with older alumni via telephone, email, letters, and holiday and birthday cards.
A regular presence in the Alumni Center, she volunteers on the Reunion Committee and helps out with special events in addition to the considerable job of coordinating seven luncheons around New Hampshire and New England each summer and fall. She’s also actively involved with the Alzheimer’s Association, which raises funds for research and offers support groups.
For all these reasons and more, Acting Alumni Director Steve Fortier, with the help of his wife, Sue, a former Alumni Association Board president, thought to rename Centennial Hall in Norma Walker’s honor. Many staff members and alumni had been lobbying for the College to come up with a lasting way to recognize her service and dedication.
“It just occurred to us that we had a great opportunity to recognize Norma today and always for all of her volunteer work at Keene State College by naming the main hall in the Alumni Center in her honor,” says Fortier. It seemed like a natural thing to do. I’m thankful for the support we got from President Treadwell and her cabinet for our proposal and this lasting tribute to the most active of our 35,000 alumni.”
For Walker, it’s all about helping people, and not about getting awards. “It’s an honor I never anticipated, my whole life,” says Walker. “I don’t do things for that. I do it because I enjoy it and people seem to enjoy what I do for them.”
At 90, Walker has no plans to stop working for her alma mater – but now, she’ll likely be doing some of that work in Norma Walker Hall.
– Rachel Vitello ’20