Farewell to the Schwab Pipe Organ, Part 2
About a month ago, we bid adieu to the Schwab Pipe Organ, the class gift of 1936 and certainly, in some small respect, a part of President Atherton’s vision. The organ watched over decades worth of Penn State commencements and cultural events in the Schwab Auditorium and was the perfect tribute to the charitable Charles Schwab. Unfortunately, the organ became unplayable in 1977 and has been in storage ever since. Geoff Hallett, the Penn State assistant director of annual giving, announced that the organ would be destroyed due to the expensive nature of the repairs.
“The pipe organ is no longer in working order and repairs, salvage, and/or storage in an off-site location is cost-prohibitive,” Hallett said at the time. ”The Office of Annual Giving is currently investigating ways to appropriately recognize this portion of the 1936 Class Gift.”
As it turns out, plans have changed.
Late last week, the Schwab Pipe Organ was listed on Penn State’s eBay page, which is most frequently used to sell surplus items from the various academic departments. With a starting bid of $1,000, the historic organ, which includes over 2,000 pipes, will be salvaged.
“The organ has been a topic of discussion for decades since it has not worked since 1977,” Hallett said. “The first discussions were to refurbish the organ, but in the 1970s the estimates were over $100,000. This cost was not funded at the time. Right now the organ program in the School of Music has three working, regularly maintained organs, which is more than what is needed based on student enrollment and programmatic demand.”
The decision to move forward with a private sale instead of destruction, as was the original plan, is the result of “multiple interested parties in purchasing the organ,” according to Hallett.
You can see by the comments on our original article that there was significant interest in saving the organ. Even though the artifact will no longer be in possession of Penn State, its history — and indeed, the Schwab Auditorium has seen its fair share of historical moments — will live on.