F. Austin Walter


Professor of Music at Rutgers, The State University
Director of the Rutgers University Glee Club for 52 years
Founder and Director of the Rutgers University Choir
1910 - 2000

Soup's Debut at Rutgers - 1932

In the Fall 1983 Glee Gab, Soup wrote:

I came to Rutgers as a freshman in 1928. After four years as an undergraduate in the Glee Club, during my senior year, I had my first opportunity to conduct. In that year (1932) we entered a Glee Club contest sponsored by the Intercollegiate Musical Council in Carnegie Hall, N.Y. For this contest a student leader was needed. I won the competition for the job and consequently my first appearance in public as a conductor was in Carnegie Hall on February 27, 1932. Professor McKinney asked me to continue leading the Club during the remainder of my senior year. At commencement time he invited me to continue conducting the Club. I gratefully (and gleefully) accepted the invitation and returned to the campus. Like the Man who Came to Dinner, I "stayed and stayed."

sent by John Vila

The Rutgers University Choir

Founded by Soup in 1949

A 1965 Rehearsal at the old Music Building at Douglass




Four Pictures of the RU Choir

Click on each for a larger version. Comments are from former members of the choir.

Picture 1

RU Choir

Photo #1 is a rehearsal, obviously since we are not in performance dress, but I can't be sure of where it was or what we might have been singing without going through some old records and finding out. Barbara S.

Eugene Ormandy conducting a rehearsal ca. 1964. The Philadelphia Orchestra with the Rutgers University Choir. John Vila.

Picture 2, November 1963

RU Choir

Part of the performance by this choir after President Kennedy's assassination, November 1963. Apparently recorded direct from a TV broadcast.

Photo #2 is etched in my memory. The choir had begun its tour singing Brahms' Requiem (in German) just before JFK was assassinated on Friday November 22. We had already performed in Philadelphia and Baltimore as I recall, and may have already had a performance in New Brunswick although as I recall we canceled the Nov. 22 performance there.
Maestro Ormandy contacted Soup as well as NBC, and took the choir to Philadelphia on Saturday to tape the entire Requiem in honor of our fallen president. The performance was seen on Saturday night on NBC. (I have always wondered if that tape was saved or not -- perhaps it's in the NBC archives somewhere.) The soloists were Phyllis Curtin and Donald Gramm, but for the taped performance, Gramm was replaced by McKinley Boatright so this photo was taken at one of the other, regular performances.
On the following Monday, the choir performed at Carnegie Hall, again presenting the Requiem in honor of President Kennedy. Barbara S. 2008

I was in the Glee Club from 1960-64 and the Glee Club business manager in 1963-64. I was also in the Rutgers University Choir and the Kirkpatrick Choir during all four years at Rutgers.
In the Fall of 1963, the University Choir was rehearsing the Brahms' REQUIEM. There were performances in Boston, in Philadelphia, at Carnegie Hall in New York and in New Brunswick. During these years I was also the Baritone with the Queensmen Quartet. Dr. Mason Gross, President of the University had taken us under his wing and asked us to travel to New York to sing at a Rutgers Alumni Dinner at the '21' Club in New York. As I was on my way to the train in New Brunswick, I stopped to buy toothpaste at the pharmacy and heard on the radio that President Kennedy had just been shot in Dallas.
I reached Dr. Gross in his office and asked what we should do. He said emphatically that we should go on to New York. That, of course, we wouldn't sing, but we should be there anyway. (We did sing some of the Rutgers' hymns). Other members of the Queensmen were Eric Reidel and Greg Tutko. My experience of being in New York City the night that Kennedy died will someday fill a chapter in my autobiography. Enough for now to say that we left New York after the Alumni Dinner and got back to New Brunswick at Midnight where I found many phone calls.
I was also the business manager of the University Choir and the messages said Eugene Ormany wanted the entire choir in New York AT CARNEGIE HALL by noon on Saturday. We stayed up all night calling the Rutgers and Douglas College members. The buses left at 6:30 and got to Carnegie Hall in time for a good rehearsal before CBS (NOT NBC) recorded the entire performance for broadcast on Sunday morning.
Sadly, the performance on CBS that Sunday morning was interrupted by news of the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby in Dallas.
I expect that CBS still has the original 1 inch video tape but a transfer to a contemporary format would be expensive. I have done this kind of research for 40 years and can easily find out what survives. David T. 2009

My recollection of the JFK memorial concert is that RU Choir went to the Philadelphia Academy of Music on Saturday morning, 11/23/63, to tape the two Brahms works, Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny) and the Requiem, on what was still, at that time, the CBS station--WCAU. (WCAU became an NBC affiliate in 1995.)
I remember that it was raining in Philadelphia when we arrived from New Brunswick. It seemed odd to me to be wearing white tie and tails in the morning.
The concert was broadcast on CBS that Saturday night. I heard that an estimated total of 80 million viewers across the US and Canada saw our performance.
Here is an excerpt from Thomas Doherty's Encyclopedia of Television. He gives the history of the broadcast networks' four-day coverage of the JFK assassination.
"On Saturday, the trauma is eased somewhat by religious ritual and Constitutional tradition. Close friends, members of the president's family, government officials, and the diplomatic community arrive to pay their respects at the White House, where the president's body is lying in state. Former Presidents Truman and Eisenhower speak for the cameras, offering condolences to the Kennedy family and expressions of faith in democratic institutions. Instant documentary tributes to the late president appear on all three networks--quick, makeshift compilations of home movies of Hyannisport frolics, press conference witticisms, and formal addresses to the nation. Meanwhile, more information dribbles in about Oswald, the accused assassin, whom the Dallas police parade through the halls of the City Jail. That evening CBS presents a memorial concert by the Philadelphia Orchestra with Eugene Normandy [sic] conducting." John Vila. 2009

Hmmm... Calling him Normandy is surely tantamount to the memorable appellation referring to Soup as "Professor Campbell"!
Yes, tails in the morning was quite disturbing but ever so fitting for the solemnity of the occasion. Thank goodness it gave us something to do during those terrible days.
I remember watching in horror when Oswald was shot the following morning, as we gathered at Alan G's folk's house. His father, there with us, exploded in anger saying something like, "Jesus Christ! Can't those idiots in Texas do anything right!?" We were all stupefied. (Maybe it wasn't the Jesus epithet. Perhaps some other equally surprising word, coming from an older person. Memory is such a fickle thing.)
How we managed to sing under those circumstances is beyond me. Even Ormandy had tears in his eyes as he conducted during the soprano solo.
Here we are, decades later, and the memory is still so poignant. We are all gray-haired, bespectacled, and missing teeth, yet it feels as though we were there yesterday.
Ah, the power of memory! Greg T. 2009

Thanks, John [Vila], for your reminiscence of the JFK memorial concert. It is certainly burned into my mind as well. To this day I cannot hear or sing the Brahms Requiem without remembering and tearing up. Pat R. 2009

That was a beautiful remembrance Greg. I also remember it like it was yesterday. Thanks for giving us pause to remember in our own way. Ginny M. 2009

I enjoyed the running history piece. Interesting how people remember the events of November 1963 differently. We did go to the Academy and not Carnegie Hall, as was corrected, as was the fact that WCAU was then the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia. There never was any planned performance for Sunday morning. It was 9:00 Sunday evening and a bunch of us did watch it at Alan Greenfield's. Lastly, the substitute baritone for Donald Graham, who had another commitment from which he could not get to Philadelphia quickly, was McHenry (not McKinley) Boatright. We actually taped the Requiem twice, and I believe it was the second taping that was to be broadcast. Although we were also performing Brahm's Schicksalslied along with the Requiem in the touring program that fall, it was not part of the taped performance. My wife, Meg Schoen Armstrong, also remembers the occasion quite vividly, including Maestro Ormandy looking out at us from the podium before we began by saying, " Millions of people around the world wish they could do something today. We can." And with that he raised his baton. Greg Lozier. 2010

RU Choir RU Choir RU Choir

John Vila's autographed score from that tour and the review of the performance .

Picture 3

RU Choir

Leopold Stokowski conducting the American Symphony Orchestra and the Rutgers University Choir at Carnegie Hall ca. 1964. It's probably Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky. The tenor and bass sections are unusually large, probably augmented by the Glee Club. John Vila

RU Choir

Picture 4

The Rutgers University Choir performing ca. 1965. The piano in the foreground leads me to guess that it's Beethoven's Choral Fantasy. John Vila.

RU Choir RU Choir RU Choir
Left, Soup and Eric Leinsdorf - c. 1957, center, Soup at Carnegie Hall, 1957, right, Soup and Eugene Ormandy - c. 1962

The RU Choir Discography

George Fredric Handel, Ode for Saint Cecilia's Day Soloists Adele Addison (soprano) John McCollum (tenor) New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, Rutgers University Choir Sony Classical 60731.
May 2, 1959

Carl Orff, Carmina Burana, Soloists Janice Harsanyi, Harve Presnell, Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy, Rutgers University Choir, Sony Classical 47668.

Belshazzer's Feast, William Walton, Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy, Rutgers University Choir.

Ein Deutches Requiem, Johannes Brahms, Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy, Rutgers University Choir, recorded and broadcast for President Kennedy's Television Memorial Service.
November 1963

The Rutgers University Glee Club


Soup Directing the Glee Club - 1966

During the 1966 European tour, the Glee Club stayed at a small hotel in Echternach, Luxembourg. The hotel had a large central ventilation shaft and some of the guys discovered that the acoustics were pretty good in there. Soon the whole club was singing out of several floors of windows. Soup found that he could climb through his room window onto a ledge and he began to conduct us. Someone tossed him a rose.

Glee Club Photos

Soup, Dr. McKinney and the GleeClub - 1947
1963 Glee Club photo
Directing the RUGC on the flight to Amsterdam - 1966.
Directing - the 1966 European tour
At a 1966 Glee Club Convention at Emory University Campus, Atlanta, 1966, Soup tries out a skateboard/1
At a 1966 Glee Club Convention at Emory University Campus, Atlanta, 1966, Soup tries out a skateboard/2
At a 1966 Glee Club Convention at Emory University Campus, Atlanta, 1966, Soup tries out a skateboard/3
Tosci, Soup's companion from c. 1967
Soup directing - 1970's
1971 Glee Club photo

The Glee Club at Lake Minnewaska

From Greg Lozier's (Manager 1966) scrapbook:

RU Glee Club RU Glee Club

click for larger photos above


A pre-1917 postcard (postage is one cent) of Cliff House Hotel. The post card is printed by the New York, Ontario & Western Railway which had a station at Ellenville, connecting The Lake Minnewaska Hotels with New York City.

Each year, a small contingent of the Glee Club would gather at Lake Minnewaska before college began. The prime objective was pre-term singing practice, but there was time for swimming, long walks, visits to Emil's, horseback riding, sailing etc. We stayed in Wildmere, one of two Mountain Houses (hotels)

We would finish the five day stay with an evening concert sung at Cliff House to an audience across the lake at Wildmere.

We rehearsed in a wooden cabin, complete with piano and a bust of (I think) Beethoven.

1957 rehearsal, from Ken D.
1967 Glee Gab sent by Phil F.
Art took this photo in 2011 - the cabin is still there!

Phil F. has provided these photos from the 1964 Glee Gab

Breakfast in the woods after a very early morning horseback ride.
Soup presenting Emil with a Rutgers banner.

And another from Ken D.

On the back of the photo it says Emil's (after drinks) 3-16-57.

Both hotels have burned and the land is a NY State Preserve. Chip N. reminded me of this website, which gives the history of the resort and State Preserve:

Rutgers Glee Club Discography

Songs of Rutgers
A four record set of Glee Club recordings that are not 33 1/3 but possibly 60 rpm. There is only one song per side and not labeled 33 1/3. Late 1940's. May not be on vinyl but on very fragile phenolic resin.

Rutgers Glee Club
Single record 33rpm c. 1950

RU Glee Club
Ozzie Nelson, RU Grad, heard the 1960 tour in CA and suggested this LP. Kirkpatrick Chapel is on the cover 1960.

Songs our Alma Mater Taught Us
1962 GE

The only album I sang on was "Songs our Alma Mater Taught Us" which was a compilation of American college songs that was sponsored by GE as a premium for TV watchers for the "College Bowl" TV program.  We had two recording sessions with, I believe, Columbia, in NYC which were done in the middle of the night in a church they had bought for a studio.  We were paid for the gig, and were required to join the union!!! Alan G.

Wow! I had completely forgotten about that recording studio scene we got paid for.  Thanks to Alan G., my old roomie. I remember we had to do a retake because one of us had had his hand in his pocket and was giggling his change or keys, and the sound man picked it up! I was impressed at the power of the sound man. Formidable! Greg T(GC manager '65)

Festival in Bergen
Norway 1962

Yes there was a recording of the Glee Club's European tour. Really poor quality sound. My mom still has my original version from 1962 Greg T

America Sings

Christmas in Carol and Song
1966, Rutgers University Glee Club F. Austin Walter Director, The Kirkpatrick Chapel Choir, Organist and Choirmaster David A. Drinkwater

100 Years of Football

1970 vinyl LP by the Rutgers University Glee Club titled "100 Years of Football", released, in part, to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the first college football game between Rutgers and Princeton Universities. Side one contains the Alma Maters of Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Navy, & Army, along with 6 "drinking" songs. Side two contains "Songs Of Rutgers" including "A Rutgers Toast", "Down Where The Raritan Flows", "Vive Les Rutgers' Sons" and more. Information from eBay.

Soupisms and Soup Stories

I still use three Soupisms in my rehearsals:
l) altos look up, you're behind.
2) men and, uh, tenors
3) breathe where the commas are, not the Russian commisar. Ginny M.

He expressed frustration pointedly: "I know the tenors are trying. Very trying."

In music history class we would try our best with the music identification test he called "Drop the Needle." He told us the Tchaikovsky stories---"How many symphonies did he write? Three. The 4th, 5th and 6th." We would always remember the famous symphonic theme from the line, "Everybody knows this but Stransky."

Soup liked to recall how many wrong ways he had been introduced or addressed in letters: Dr. Campbell, A. Foster Waters, Mr. Walters, Walter Austin. John Vila

Remember when Soup used to conduct RU Choir at full throttle with his toes hanging precariousy over the front of the stage? Gad. Carol Fitz

Soup was the only person I know who could fall asleep while playing the piano. I saw him do this several times in a conducting class he tought. My oh my, it must have been boring for him. He'd play some music for us on the piano and it would get slower and slower and finally stop. Art Robb
He taught an opera class which he insisted on calling Uproar. Art Robb
Speaking of all the names he had been called - when I looked in local paper, the Home News Tribune, for the obituary, I did a double take. There in bold letters - F. Austin Walker. (There was another article a few days later with a picture. They got it right by then.) Don Lewis

I, like many others sang with Soup and had such a connection with his artistry and humanity; he really sets the standard for me in acappella singing,and repertoire, and just his general approach to life.I sang from 72-76, but then for 10+ years afterwards in a small alumnae ensemble with soup at his house. Richard Roy

Ken Deveney remembers a Soupism from the late 50's - Sopranos, when you have triplets, hold back.

Charles Bihler '59 remembers - altos, when you are having triplets, hold back!

Dan was in the RUC in the 60's and 70's and writes:
I thought I should mention one of the memories I had of Soup. The Choir was in rehearsal for something in the late 1960s when he stopped our singing and singled someone out for singing flat! I don't recall who it was or what piece, but it made all of us extremely self-conscious and on our toes. He was also a stickler for diction/enunciation. He brought in someone from the New Brunswick Hungarian immigrant community to drill us on pronunciation of Hungarian words when we worked on Psalmus Hungaricus by Zoltán Kodály. He also had a member of the Glee Club (George Karamedjieff?) coach us on Russian when preparing to sing Alexander Nevsky and/or a chorus from Boris Godunov. Soup was particularly concerned with how we sang "excelsis" (roughly "egg shell sees") and drilled us on attacks and cut-offs. I remember our warm-up exercises. All of these things were great memories and part of the legacy that made award-winning recordings.


Soup at 85!


F. Austin "Soup" Walter, age 89, of the Somerset section of Franklin Township, died Monday, May 1, 2000 at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.

Born in Philadelphia, son of a minister of the Reformed Church, he lived in Hackensack and Highland Park before moving to Somerset.

Professor Walter graduated from Rutgers College in 1932 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Political Science. He received an honorary Master of Arts degree in 1949 from Rutgers and in 1966 was awarded an honorary Doctorate.

Soup Walter was a distinguished Professor Emeritus of Rutgers University. After graduating in 1932, he assumed responsibility for conducting the Rutgers Glee Club. During the next 51 years, he established the group as a preeminent male singing ensemble which developed an international reputation for excellence. Under his direction, the Glee Club made twelve concert tours abroad.

In 1949, with the encouragement of (then) provost, Mason W. Gross, Soup founded the Rutgers University Choir. This choir became internationally known for its many outstanding performances with some of the world`s greatest orchestras and conductors, such as Erich Leinsdorf, Leonard Bernstein, Eugene Ormandy and Leopold Stokowski.

The RU choir was nominated for a Grammy award for its recording of William Walton`s "Belshazzar`s Feast" with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Among other distinguished recordings it made are "Carmina Burana" of Carl Orff, also with Ormandy, which won a Grand Prix du Disc award, and a recording of Handel's "Ode for St. Cecilia's Day" with Leonard Bernstein. Both of these recordings have been reissued and are available in CD format.

Soup taught Music History, Opera, Chamber Music, Music Appreciation (which he called "Music Depreciation") and an Art, Music and Literature class. He was a visiting professor of music at the University of Michigan and also a visiting professor at Rollins College in Florida. He was the former president of the Intercollegiate Music Council and was a member of the board of directors of Friendship Ambassadors Foundation.

He retired from teaching in 1978 but continued as director of the Glee Club until 1983, the longest professional association at the University. Soup's generosity to his students, expertise in his craft, devotion to his art and his flair for living made him one of the best known and most beloved members of the Rutgers community.

Soup was predeceased by two brothers, Robert and Judd Walter, and a sister, Miriam. He is survived by a sister-in-law, Leslie Walter of Highland Park, three nephews and several great-nieces and nephews.

written By Don Lewis

Soup's Memorial Service

The memorial service for Soup was held on Sunday, May 21, at Kirkpatrick Chapel. Under gray skies and rain, Kirkpatrick Chapel was filled with family, friends and alumni and student singers from classes spanning over sixty years of choral experience with the Glee Club, the Kirkpatrick Chapel Choir and the RU Choir. Alumni gathered two hours before the service was to start, renewing ties - sometimes after decades, reminiscing about priceless moments in rehearsals and concerts with Soup, and marveling at the gifts he bestowed on each of us as a conductor, a teacher, and a friend.

Professor David Drinkwater coordinated the memorial service's speakers and musical selections. He conducted alumni of the RU Choir and Kirkpatrick Chapel Choir in a performance of "How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place" from the Brahms Requiem.

All the congregation joined in Soup's favorite hymns: Handel's "Awake My Soul, Stretch Every Nerve," "A Rutgers Prayer," Sibelius's "Be Still My Soul," and "Hymn to Queens." The Glee Glub Director, Dr. Patrick Gardner, led us in Tchesnokov"s "Salvation Belongeth To Our God." For a hearty recessional, we sang Grieg's "Brothers, Sing On," adapted by Soup's mentor, Howard D. McKinney.

From the Handel hymn that Soup loved, there is this fitting verse:

"Blest Saviour, introduced by Thee,
Have I my race begun;
And, crowned with victory, at Thy feet
I'll lay my honors down."

Then these words, so very final, from the hymn set to Sibelius's "Finlandia":

"Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored,
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last."

Thank you, Soup, for loving life, and music, and us.

John Vila

An email from John Cifelli in April 2008:

My name is John, I am currently a senior at Rutgers, and a 5 year member of the glee club. I am glad I stumbled onto your testament to Soup Walters, it's a wonderful glimpse into Soup's time and what glee club was like. I actually have a strange question. Do you know where Soup is buried? I would like to make a trip to see his gravestone, it would mean a lot to myself and a few of my cohorts, who are almost as enamored with Rutgers's history and tradition as I am. Thank you.

This information from John Vila and Dave Drinkwater

Soup was cremated and his ashes were put in the Lake Nelson Memorial Park Association, 606 South Randolphville Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854. Telephone: 732 463-7100. The memorial park is just north of the Busch and Livingston Campuses. Soup's brothers and sister-in-law and Bobby are all interred in the same place.

Two emails from Bill Walter in February 2012 both with the subject Francis Auston [sic] "Soup" Walter


I am Soup’s nephew and I just read your article on the web. Thank you for this wonderful tribute to my late uncle. Our family love him dearly and we still miss his humor.

Also just a note of corrections; Only one of his two brothers is with with Soup and in the Lake Nelson Memorial Park, my uncle Robert, his wife Leslie and I believe the “bobby” your are refering to is his niece “bunny” Miriam. Both of my parents are buried in a different location in New Jersey.

Thank you again from all of us in the Walter family.

Bill Walter
Oak Ridge, N.J.


I spoke with one of my bothers, the bobbie is soup's Nephew Robert Jr. with his dad Robert Sr. and mother Leslie, their daughter is NOT buried there.

Bill Walter
Oak Ridge, N.J


Top Quality Early Rutgers, Douglass and New Brunswick Nostalgia

Ein Konig - A drinking song
The class of 1967 sang Ein Konig, but this spine-tingling version is by a wine-pouring-flash-mob at a Swedish Nobel Prize award ceremony. The music starts after about four minutes of wine pouring.