May 09, 2005

Couple's gift refurbishes pipe organ in Altgeld Hall

by Bonnie Marx


CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Music students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will enjoy playing a refurbished pipe organ for years to come in Altgeld Hall at Southern Illinois University Carbondale thanks to the generosity of a faculty member and his wife.

When work began more than three years ago to refurbish Altgeld Hall, home of the School of Music, the school was faced with a challenge. The pipe organ, used for practice sessions, was badly in need of repair. Marianne Webb, distinguished University organist and professor emerita of music at SIUC, didn't want to see the organ scrapped, but knew the school didn't have resources to refurbish it.

She reached out to Jeanne Brazinski Wacker and her husband, Raymond F. Wacker, an associate professor of accountancy on campus. They appreciated the school's predicament and agreed to help.

The couple financed the reconstruction of the Wicks practice organ — to the tune of about $19,000. To acknowledge and honor their contribution, the organ studio will carry their name.

The Wackers call their contribution a ‘response to the sacred spirit of God that lives in each of us that causes us to share our blessings with missions to which we have been called." The restoration of the practice organ, Mrs. Wacker said, is one small step in protecting the University's larger asset, the majestic pipe organ in Shryock Auditorium.

"The Shryock organ is not only the finest organ in this region, but one of the finest in the United States," she said. "This multi-million dollar investment of the University needs to be played regularly to prevent decline. Therefore, it is very important that the University maintain its organ curriculum."

Jeanne is a freelance certified public accountant; she and her five siblings all earned degrees at SIUC.

"Without this gift, the University would not have been able to save this useful instrument," said Robert L. Weiss, director of the SIUC School of Music. "This generous gift will be appreciated by students for many years to come."

Webb agrees. "We are very grateful. They have provided a gift that will give back the sound of music for generations."