FROM LAST TIME
Ivories and ebonies?
Several alumni instantly recognized the legendary Prof. Stanley Saxton, the composer, pianist/organist, and organ designer who taught music at Skidmore from 1928 until 1969. Lynn Allen Chamberlin ’42 says he was “an excellent teacher and much loved”
by students, who enjoyed his “wicked sense of humor.” Peg Colby Doig ’46 also recalls that he was “greatly admired” by his students. Phyllis Friedman Levenson ’45 kept in touch with Saxton until he died in 2002.
Chamberlin believes the student playing the organ is June Dodenhoff Bernst ’42, whom she remembers as “a tiny little person, but her whole dimension changed when she sat at the organ console.” And Bernst herself says, “If this picture is not of me, it certainly bears a remarkable resemblance.” Chamberlin adds that the other organ major in her class was Lesley Templeton Johnson ’42—and that’s who Dorothy Lodgen Halpern ’42 says is actually the student in the photograph. Either way, the timing is right: the photo’s label dates the scene to January 1940.
Whoever the student, there’s no question that she’s in College Hall. As Lorna Gordon Myers ’62 says, the photo immediately “took me back to the chapel where
I studied and practiced the organ.” Joanne Teale Snell ’53 remembers well “the four-manual organ that was such a fun instrument to play. I had a lesson once a week, but I didn’t get
to practice much: I’d walk over to College Hall and someone else was already playing it; that was so disappointing. There was another organ in Stanley Saxton’s office—a two-manual one—but someone was usually practicing on that one too.”
Peggy Downie Banks ’72 studied organ with Saxton in her freshman year—the last year before he retired—and then with Benjamin Van Wye. “I remember practicing on the College Hall organ before Dr. Van Wye started giving organ lessons at the Episcopal church.” Banks wonders what ever became of the College Hall organ…