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Skidmore College
Skidmore Retirees

Ruth C. Lakeway

Ruth C. Lakeway, professor emerita of music, died Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2006, at home, following a brief illness.

Born Sept. 11, 1922, in Littleton, N.H., Ruth was the daughter of Shirl F. and Mildred (Cleveland) Lakeway. She began her formal music training at the Eastman School of Music, where she earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music as well as a performer’s certificate in voice. She also earned an M.A. in Italian from Middlebury College.  Ruth studied voice at the conservatory of Saint Cecilia in Rome, the Fountainbleu American School of Music in France (where she studied under the renowned teacher Nadia Boulanger), and at the Boston University School of Fine and Applied Arts, where she was a doctoral student. She pursued special studies in voice therapy at the Westminster Choir School in Princeton and was recognized as a leading expert in the field.

Music Department Chair Tom Denny remarked, “It’s amazing how vital Ruth’s life was until she got sick a short while ago. She attended concerts regularly, was teaching in UWW, and was planning to travel in May. Aside from teaching music and voice, Ruth had a passion for the health of the voice and treated young voices so sensitively as a result.”

Ruth began her teaching career at the Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio, then joined the Skidmore faculty in the fall of 1957 and for the next 31 years—until her retirement in June 1988—touched the lives of numerous students, faculty, and staff through her teaching, scholarship, and performances. An established concert artist when she came to Skidmore, Ruth had sung extensively in concerts, recitals, and oratories, and on radio and TV in the U.S., Europe, and South America. She continued this tradition of performing, appearing frequently as a soloist with major symphony orchestras and choral groups.

With the assistance of both Fulbright and Danforth grants, Ruth traveled to Italy to study lirica da camera, the Italian art song. She spent 12 summers researching the topic, eventually turning the research into a book titled The Italian Art Song of the 20th Century, co-written with Robert White of Queens College (1989, Indiana University Press).  The book includes a chapter on the historical development of the music from 1600 to contemporary times, and texts with translations of more than 200 20th-century songs, with analysis and suggestions for performing them.

“The Italian Art Song” was the title of Ruth’s 1978 Edwin M. Moseley Faculty Research Lecture at the College. Selection as the Moseley Lecturer is the highest honor the faculty can bestow on one of its own.

Ruth also had a strong commitment to the community. For a number of years she was musical director at her church, the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church, on Circular Street. After retiring, she spent more than a decade delivering meals for the Office for the Aging and taught 11 courses (including one last fall) for the Academy of Learning in Retirement, sponsored by Empire State College. She also was an active literacy volunteer and worked on behalf of a number of area cultural and arts organizations. She was a longtime member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and the New York State Music Teachers Association.

Professor Emerita of Music Isabelle Williams, a former chair of the department, recalled, “One of the things that stands out about Ruth was her hospitality.  Her house was always open for department parties or to people—such as artists visiting with the Lake George Opera Festival or the Baroque Music Festival—who needed a place to stay.  She had a special generosity of spirit.  She supported her friends who were performers and would attend their events—sometimes several in a single day—to demonstrate that support.”

Known for her generosity and a willingness to assist where needed, Ruth added courses to her teaching load, or volunteered for extra assignments—such as driving Filene Artist-in-Residence Marilyn Horne to the local Price Chopper so that the famed soprano could select her own fruit.

Vice President for Academic Affairs Chuck Joseph, professor of music and former chair of the department, said, “Ruth was the most supportive colleague I've ever met. She lived in Filene Recital Hall and attended almost every event that occurred there over the 21 years I've been at Skidmore. Student recitals, faculty colleagues, guest artists—through snow and sleet—she was always there. I remember her as the kindest person I ever knew.”

In November 2005, in recognition of her commitment to the community, the Saratoga Care Foundation named Ruth as the fifth Honor Recipient of the foundation’s Legacy Society.

Ruth is survived by three first cousins:  Cleveland Kapala of Hopkinton, N.H.; Alson Schoff of Jeffersonville, Ind.; and Jane Wilhelm of Riva, Md.