Composing History: the Writing of the Alma Mater

Seventy years ago, when Daisy (Stevens) Thoms (1941) sat down at the piano to complete her homework assignment for a music composition class, she had no idea that the result would quite literally become history. The assignment: compose a new tune for the Belhaven Alma Mater, which was notoriously difficult to sing. The outcome: Mrs. Thoms’ composition has become the backdrop to every Belhaven College commencement ceremony for nearly seven decades.

Daisy wrote the music for the Alma Mater in one sitting: “It just sorta came to me,” she says. While classmates spent a week writing and re-writing their compositions, Daisy says,

“After I had mine written, I couldn’t change it. I was satisfied with it.” Even though she felt at ease with her composition, she admits she was surprised that it was chosen as the official tune of the Alma Mater: “I had no idea it would be accepted! I was very pleased, but I don’t brag about it.”
The small town girl from Richton, Miss., was born with a gift for music. By age four, she had taught herself to play the piano with both hands.  She remembers her short, little legs dangling over the piano stool, and reminisces about how she traveled to her grandmother’s house to practice: “ I would hold onto my collie’s ear, and he would walk me down the street so I could play piano.” Though she didn’t own a piano until she was fourteen, her parents saw great potential in her, and a local musician gave her a music book from which she learned until she began lessons in the 8th grade.

She was attracted to the music program at Belhaven, and her talent continued to grow while she was there. She had intentions to accept a scholarship from Julliard School of Music after graduation, but she says plans changed when “the war came along.” With the onslaught of  World War II, Daisy decided to stay in Mississippi and marry her first beau and the man she had “been in love with all my life,” David Ogden “Bud” Thoms.   Three children, 8 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren later, she does not speak with regret.

Mrs. Thoms speaks of her time at Belhaven with great fondness, and says her time here “gave purpose to my life.” She came to Belhaven with a wonderful heritage of devout Christian parents and grandparents, and she says, “Belhaven solidified that path.” She hopes that future generations of Belhaven students also “continue the traditions of the college in the life of [their families].” Daisy Thoms is evidence that a godly heritage from both family and college makes a lasting impact for generations. As future generations continue to sing  “Belhaven, Belhaven, we shall not wholly part, This dear green hill shall bind us still to God and thee in heart,” may they remember the musical legacy of  Daisy Thoms.

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