An ode to Billy Montgomery

by Adnan Bašić / Head Copy Editor

Billy Montgomery’s official faculty photo. Photo courtesy of

Remember in high school when your teachers would warn you about how strict college professors are?

“You won’t be able to get away with the things you’re doing now.” “You have to make sure you’re doing all your assignments and you need to get to class on time.” “No one is going to hold your hand.”

Those teachers have not met Billy Montgomery.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just going to be an article about a lenient professor who gives out good grades for little effort. Those teachers are all well and good, but it’s tough to establish a true connection with them. Their classes are a walk in the park, and that’s it.

Walking into a Montgomery classroom is not like walking into a regular classroom. More akin to walking into a family gathering, there’s just a certain comfort that comes with going to one of his classes. Whether it’s a 9:30 a.m. course that’s twice a week or a 2 p.m. for two and a half hours once a week, Montgomery always knows exactly what to do to get a class engaged. There have been so many instances where I’ve arrived to class tired or with a headache, and those feelings will subside after a bit of time due to whatever activities were planned for the day.

It’s so clear that Montgomery wants to help every single student of his, and I think that might be my favorite part about him. He doesn’t just teach media studies, photography or film. He teaches life lessons, preparing students for the future after they leave Roosevelt. He challenges them to push themselves, whether it be by joining clubs or taking risks with work. “Get that bag,” as he likes to say. He’s not just doing these things for the sake of it, as it’s clear he genuinely has faith in all of his students and their abilities.

If Montgomery believes in me, why shouldn’t I?

Montgomery also seems to know a lot of industry professionals, and he’s willing to bring those people to his classes as guests in order for his students to learn from their experiences. Each guest isn’t for every student (and some may even get Montgomery in trouble), but having them involved brings a new dynamic to whatever class he’s teaching.

Being with Montgomery in a classroom setting is great and all, but getting to know him outside of the classroom has been even more special. As the longtime advisor for the Torch, Montgomery seems to always be around when need be — other than the few times I needed to get into the film or radio rooms and the man had seemingly disappeared. He’s happy to help, no matter what time it is or what he’s doing.

Montgomery is also someone you can relate to. Some professors are at school just to teach, and that’s it. Not Montgomery, though. You can talk to him like he’s a friend of yours, whether the conversation is about restaurants nearby, work stories or general life events. One time, I had about 30 minutes between classes to relax, so I headed to The Torch office, where I only planned on sitting on my phone while eating. However, I walked into a conversation between Montgomery and a former student that I quickly got involved in. Good times and punchlines followed, and the next thing I knew it was time to go to class. 

Out of all the things I miss about not having in-person classes, one of the main ones is not getting to see Montgomery floating around. Seeing him in a Zoom call is funny, like when he uses some background of the Roosevelt library to lift spirits, or especially when he wears a headset that makes him look like he’s about to start gaming, but it’s not quite the same. One time I sent a picture of Montgomery walking down the hallway to my friend with the caption, “I feel like I’m in a video game where I have to follow Billy to a location,” to which he eventually noted how Billy kind of looks like an ice cream cone before then sending a picture of one. We never told Montgomery about that conversation, but I’ve got a feeling he’ll laugh when he reads about it here.

Thank you for all that you’ve done, Billy. It’s been real.

Categories: Feature

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