For the 1976 spring concert of the Society for Old Music as it was mounted for the annual medieval conference, I organized what was certainly the most complex program that I had yet ventured. We began with another liturgical play, the Sponsus, or Bridegroom, from St. Martial of Limoges. The play dramatized the parable of the Five Wise and the Five Foolish Virgins, with the latter going to sleep, allowing their lamps to be extinguished, and pleading for oil to replenish them - and without lighted lamps they would be barred from the wedding feast, symbolizing mystic union with Christ, and taken away to the place of darkness by devils. The score was edited by William Smoldon, and the dramatic director this time was Nona Mason. Thereafter, following an instrumental interlude by the Wind Forest recorder ensemble, the Corpus Christi Mass according to the use of York was begun, following the ancient Latin service books and, with permission of our bishop, celebrated by Father William O. Lewis in the Cathedral of Christ the King with the help of cathedral clergy, including the Rev. Canon John Ferguson who would later serve the Jerusalem diocese and then the archbishop of Canterbury. I arranged the chants from the old York service books in modern notation for my group, and then imposed rhythmic patterns consistent with different modes of performance. For the opening procession we used Salve feste dies (“Hail thee, festival day”) with the text for Corpus Christi, actually a feast that was celebrated forty days after Easter in honor of the Eucharist. The Kyrie was the common Orbis factor version, but the anonymous Gloria was chosen from a manuscript in the British Library. The Creed and Sanctus, in turn, were from the Missa flos regalis of Walter Frye. The famous sequence Lauda Sion salvatorem (“Praise, Zion, your Savior . . . with hymns and songs”), attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas, and the final hymn, Pange lingua (“Now, my tongue, the mystery telling, of the glorious Body sing”), were done in a snappy rhythm that made them seem very different from the usual versions with which some in the audience were familiar. To make following the Mass easier, we provided a thirty-two-page printed missal for the service, and a copy was catalogued for retention by the Western Michigan University library so it is available to all who might be interested.
In the previous February, Encore, the local arts magazine, had published a laudatory article about my work with the Society, but at the University the story was more complicated. Following a grievance against the University, I had finally been given a full-time tenure track position as an assistant professor of humanities, but was faced with intractable opposition by the department chairman, Philip Adams, a man who, when he first was hired in the English Department, had been categorized by the saying “To know him is to hate him.” We found out later that he had rejected his own parents and had even changed his name in order to distance himself from them. Before his move to Humanities and his elevation to administration, he had been very good at forcing department and committee meetings to grind to a halt with his maneuvering. He was hostile in every way, and, as is sometimes customary in lesser institutions, he manipulated student evaluations to arrive at a negative judgment of his faculty - never mind that his own were lower than anyone else’s, or that the instrument being used was deemed unreliable, or that the best study of student evaluations demonstrated that there might be an inverse relationship between student evaluations and the quality of the teaching. As a performer, I always had positive responses from better students, of whom to be sure there was very often a shortage, though I particularly remember ones like Lisa Williams, who is now is leader of the second violins in the Kalamazoo Orchestra, and Larry Burns, who is an architect and at this date a neighbor. The poorest ones always were insulted that they had to write and even spell correctly. A particularly weak student argued about his paper with me once, so I said I would consult with a colleague, who in this case happened to have had some experience as an elementary school teacher. He told me, “I’ve seen sixth graders write better than that.” He was not referring to the handwriting. Others objected to working at all in a humanities class, and I was gratified that football players on the whole stopped signing up. This was after I was phoned several times by the coaches to see “If there was anything that could be done to help” so-and-so. I would answer, “He is getting tutoring.” These inquiries sounded to me as if I was being offered bribes, and I have no doubt that I was correct about my suspicions. In another instance, I was in fact offered a bribe overtly when an Arabic student said he wanted to give me a gift, I think in exchange for an A. He was not doing well in class, though I had already decided not to flunk him. Foreign students often put forth a great deal of effort without very positive results, and it is not unusual to take pity. I said I could not accept the gift while he was enrolled in my class. After the term was completed but before I turned in my grades, I found a nicely constructed small inlaid box by my door. I gave him the grade I had previously intended to give him, but was not able to return the box, which still resides on my desk. I did not know its intended purpose until a graduate student, Steven Chamberlin, who was helping me at home, asked me what I was doing with a hash box.
Nevertheless, I was forced to accept counseling on my teaching from a colleague, Larry Israel. This was one of these “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situations, but Larry ultimately wrote a glowing letter for me supporting my tenure application that apparently was suppressed. Once while visiting the former dean’s house, Adams had explained how he planned to see to it that I would not receive tenure, which would have been effectively to have me fired. In that conversation he revealed himself to be both anti-feminist and antagonistic to someone who was disabled, both of which were of course against official University policy. The dean’s wife was so appalled that she phoned me and gave me a full description of what had been said. Eventually Adams would be divorced by his wife on good grounds and, severely alcoholic, would be pretty much persona non grata on campus. The last time I saw him he was weaving his way unsteadily up some steps between two of the campus buildings.
Apparently Adams, with the connivance of another professor who was a member of the tenure and promotion committee, had been able to manipulate the majority, all of them male, when I came up for tenure in 1977 so that I was given a negative vote by them. I never received an adequate explanation from them for their action, and obviously there was much embarrassment on the part of many of the committee members. I was rated on a number system that would punish me for having an office in another building from the department (necessary for access to the classrooms in which I taught) and for other matters of a similar nature that were later found to be discriminatory. One argument was that I was “too short” (I am under five feet in height, and additionally had to teach from a wheelchair) to be a commanding presence in a classroom. My research, including already a monograph, articles, reviews, and a forthcoming book as well as work in preparing scores for concerts, was clearly well ahead of any of my tenured colleagues, but this was apparently being dismissed as “esoterica.” I am sure if someone else had published on Charles Ives, or on John Cage and game theory, that the judgment would have been different than in my case. Adams even complained that I lacked “outside activities”! So the situation was utterly bizarre but not untypical of what disabled people and, formerly, women designated as “faculty wives” have had to endure at times.
My dean, Norman Greenberg, strongly supported me, but the vice president for academic affairs (in later years called the provost) rubber-stamped the recommendation of the chair and the committee, of whom ironically almost all had less seniority than I. The vice president, Stephen Mitchell, amazingly told me that my qualifications were as strong as anyone who had come before him for tenure. So it was time for a major grievance and outside legal council. I retained a lawyer, Antoinette (Toni) Little, who refuted every unfair charge with logic and, when necessary, credible allegations. By September, Mitchell had been replaced as vice president for academic affairs for his management concerning a wide range of matters affecting the University, and the grievance was progressing to a satisfactory conclusion, even providing me with a pay raise to bring me up to the level enjoyed by the other tenured assistant professors. The first year of my pay raise covered the cost of my lawyer. A little more than two years after my grievance was settled my department, with a new chairman, recommended promotion, and I was promoted to associate professor.
During this time of considerable turmoil, I directed the Society for Old Music in two concerts, and I had also begun to develop a choir and to serve when needed as substitute organist at St. Martin’s Church. I did not approach the press to make my grievance public, and I practiced smiling, as if nothing of significance were happening - good advice for anyone under similar circumstances, I think. In the summer I left for Europe for two months, the longest stay abroad of my career. This trip, which, including the repeat of the Studium Musicae workshop in Belgium as well as research in Scandinavia and England, has been described above. And when my case was settled, we started house hunting in earnest, since we found the old house on Wheaton Avenue increasingly unsatisfactory, especially since our neighbor Betty Anger had gone away to the North Carolina coast but also because the neighborhood had changed drastically. Noisy fraternity and sorority houses had replaced the pleasant sounds of children playing, and crime was increasing.
Our new house, at 2006 Argyle Avenue, was designed by Will Willsey, and comes directly from the Frank Lloyd Wright workshop, though with modifications to suit the person for whom it was built, the architect Louis Kingscott, Sr., who saw it as a retirement dwelling. It retains the Wright style, with overhangs and natural-colored trim of cypress. Very much in the tradition of the Usonian house, it is built on a slab with heating ducts underneath and has distinctive Wright windows as well as lots of folding doors. The walls are brick on both sides over cinderblock, and Mr. Kingscott insisted on an attached garage, which we eliminated after we had been in the house for some years in order to carve out a computer room, another study, and storage areas. Most rooms have concealed lighting. In making changes, we tried to follow the original plans as much as possible so that only a trained eye can detect that these new rooms are not part of the original. Built in 1956, the house will be eligible to be designated as a historical site when it is fifty years old. But the joy of our new house was that it had a large living area for rehearsals, both for the Society for Old Music and, as time went on, for the St. Martin of Tours Church choir. But, as I have indicated above, the greatest joy for me was that it had no steps anywhere. It was entirely accessible. Some problems were encountered on account of changes made by Kingscott’s widow. For example, the shower had been removed, and this eventually had to be replaced, fortuitously when I could no longer use the bathtub, in 1985. The room we chose for my study had also been vandalized; the brick interior walls had been covered with gypsum board and then pink plastic wallpaper. The wallpaper we of course stripped off. We heard that Mrs. Kingscott had always hated the house. Her taste in furniture was French Provençal, so one could see that there must have been a clash of cultures between her and her husband. We moved in during a cold week in February 1978 as soon as a man with a snow plow on a truck was able to push open a path through the ice-hard snow, and our regular helper, a student named Delores Erb who had received her apprenticeship as a cleaner by assisting her mother to run their family’s motel, played an essential role in getting a thoroughly dirty house in order. Even the refrigerator had been turned off without cleaning beforehand. The outside had to wait for spring, when the cypress trim, which had been varnished and now looked as if it had measles, could be sanded and stained. We had no reason to complain, since the house, when expanded into the area that was formerly the garage, is over two thousand square feet in size, all on one floor, and cost us a measly $66,000 initially, a little over half of the original asking price. Over more than a quarter century of living in the house has made us love it more, not less, in spite of built-in faults that Wright houses (and Wright knock-off houses such as ours) always seem to have.
During the period of turmoil, I had of course to be preparing briefs, soliciting letters of support, and meeting with my lawyer. But the spring concert in 1977 still had to be rehearsed and the event organized, since again it would be a complex event. It was also one that returned me to my Scandinavian roots. Kathryn Loew, whose husband Cornelius would soon replace Stephen Mitchell as vice president, was the guest organist who played the new Casavant organ, which had been finished by our friend Gayle Monette, at the First Presbyterian Church where the concert was held. The singers under my direction sang the Swedish St. John Passion, followed by the “Hymn to St. Magnus” played on rebec and lute. Other instrumental accompaniments were provided by the Wind Forest ensemble. For the medieval conference I further organized an actual post-Reformation Swedish Mass with music from the Liber Cantus of 1620 but also with much taken from earlier efforts at adapting the Roman service to the Swedish language. Near the end some Latin chants were used, as would have been the case in sixteenth-century Sweden. A considerable amount of the music I had edited myself from the early editions. For this concert too we provided a small booklet so that people could follow the texts and translations.
Before and after 1977, the Society very frequently was asked to give concerts outside of its regular season. For example, in 1979 we performed locally at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church as part of an Easter music series. In this case my participation also included singing a duet with soprano Jane Rooks in the cantata Salve Jesu Patris by Dietrich Buxtehude, who was J. S. Bach’s esteemed predecessor and resident in the Danish province of Scania (now the Swedish province of Skåne, from which my family came). The previous summer we had even performed at a downtown summer fair - not our usual venue, but indoors at the First Presbyterian church house, where we presented some selected songs from the medieval Carmina Burana, actually the codex known as the Benediktbeuern Manuscript. The texts which have music are mainly ones that seem more or less appropriate for monks in the monastery where the manuscript was copied. “Vite perdite,” for example, has words which indicate reformation of character: “I have turned away from my former depraved life. . . .” Even “Sic mea fata” is a fairly conventional love song: “I am dying, because I love, and am not loved in return.” These were not the kinds of songs for which this codex is reputed on account of the sampling in the Carmina Burana of Carl Orff, but their melodies are original, as Orff’s are not. There were also concerts in those years as far away as Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Andrews University in Berrien Springs, and St. Mark’s Episcopal church at Coldwater, Michigan. And we had participated in a sacred music festival in Saskatoon, Alberta, which would be the furthest from home we traveled until our participation in a conference at Viterbo, Italy, about which I will have more to say below.
As indicated above, the repertoire was always varied but focused around a unique theme. In May 1979, the Society presented a concert of carnival songs from Florence from the end of the fifteenth century and the Missa de Carneval of Franchinus Gafurius, who lived from 1451 to 1522. This mass was edited by Russell Hammar from nearby Kalamazoo College. Then for one fall, in 1979, I was briefly joined by Elise Jorgens as an associate director for a set of laments and love songs, followed in the next spring by another important event, a concert of Cistercian (Trappist) music, both old and new, the latter including works by my friend Father Chrysogonus Waddell from Gethemani Abbey, where he had known the famous mystic Thomas Merton. Altogether the music for this concert spanned eight centuries, and included, in addition to Father Chrysogonus’ compositions, some modern works by Sister Edith Scholl of Mount St. Mary Abbey. As Father Chrysogonus noted in the program notes that he kindly provided, “the music chosen for this program . . . takes us to the south of England, to Champagne and Burgundy, to Upper Silesia, to Savoie, to Massachusetts and Kentucky. Other regions could have been represented just as well - the Cameroons, Hong Kong, France, Brazil. . . . But as we listen to this music, may it take us . . . to regions within us that lie deeper and higher and beyond.” This concert was particularly appropriate as an offering for both community and the Congress on Medieval Studies, as it was now called, since the Medieval Institute here has long existed in close association with the Cistercian Institute, headed by E. Rozanne Elder, an Episcopalian who later was to serve on the international ecumenical committee studying closer relations between the Roman and Anglican communions. The reviewer for the local newspaper exclaimed about the “pristine, elevated blend of voices.” Unfortunately, the tape recording we had anticipated, and which was to be used for a film promoting the Cistercian Institute and for broadcast, did not materialize since the person running the tape machine failed to press the record button - a person none other than the manager of the university radio station.
My association with St. Martin of Tours Church was also involving a deeper commitment at this time, since the choir, at first meeting only on Sunday mornings at 9:00 for practice in preparation for the 10:00 Eucharist, was doing very well. I tried to have the singers and, when available, instrumentalists make a circle about me so that all could see me, and I could see them, as the best positioning of the musicians. Whether I was directing Gregorian chant or an African-American spiritual (for the congregation had a proportion of African-Americans), I always insisted on taking total control of the interpretation of each piece, unlike perhaps most church-music directors who more or less allow the music to take its own shape, however messy. Some of the children in the congregation had musical training, so I organized a little children’s orchestra to accompany on various occasions. We had a flute, two clarinets, and a ’cello regularly available, and I could also bring in my harpsichord, though after I purchased a larger model, a replica of a Netherlandish instrument - it was a copy of an early seventeenth-century Ruckers - this became more difficult. Further, Gayle Monette, using some parts I had bought at the Early Music Shop in Bradford, England, had also built me a small pipe organ to use in Society for Old Music concerts, and this too was available. The availability of this instrument was fortuitous, since the church did not have an organ, only a “toaster,” or electronic organ, that was in the process of dying. It had vacuum tubes like the ones formerly found in radios before the advent of the transistor, and, with replacements no longer available, they tended to splutter, sometimes noisily, when the instrument was played.
For a time we “boarded” a small pipe organ, designed to be placed in a house but technically adequate in size to the space at little St. Martin’s; this had been built by a rather incompetent local builder. It not only ciphered frequently, but one day the front board over the pedal keyboard fell off on the organist’s foot while he was practicing. On a Sunday, during a service, the blower made a ghastly noise and stopped. Upon opening the blower chest, the organist found it filled with dirty sawdust and cigarette butts. Because we were afraid the instrument might be offered to us, we had it appraised. The present value was a shocking zero, since it would have cost as much to take the instrument entirely apart to fix it as to purchase the parts new. Luckily, the owner decided that he still wanted it, and took it to where he was living in Minnesota.
When we heard of some used organ parts from an old Hinners organ in Chicago, we purchased them for the church and drove down in a rented truck to pick them up. These, along with a tonally fine though damaged nineteenth-century principal set (rats or mice had even eaten through a couple of the pipes) that Clifford bought from the then organist at St. Luke’s for five dollars, were used by our friend Gayle as the beginning of a pipe organ for St. Martin’s that he was able to prepare so that it could be played early in 1979, though it would be years, following removal during some construction, before it would be put into its present state by him. Gayle, a rather colorful gentleman of French extraction from Louisiana and perhaps Clifford’s best friend while he was living, was one of the finest organ finishers in America, and had worked for the great organ companies when they began experimenting with low wind pressure and mechanical action as opposed to the usual electronic connection between keys and pipes. The St. Martin’s organ is designed to run on less than two inches of wind pressure, in contrast to organs that run on as much as twenty inches - and sound like a bag of whistles. Since St. Martin’s was not an affluent parish and since many there did not understand much about organs, a real effort was needed to finish this project. Clifford was an immense help to me in seeing it through, and the result was an instrument that shows how much can be done with a minimal budget.
The vicar in the late 1970s was Father William Poyser. He succeeded Father Lewis, who had sung in the Society for Old Music and, as will be recalled, had been celebrant in the Corpus Christi Mass in 1976. Father Poyser commissioned me to write service music, and this resulted in my St. Martin’s Mass, which the church published. It was designed for congregational use according to the Episcopal rite, and was sung nearly every Sunday for more than two decades. Father Poyser was at St. Martin’s for ten years, and saw the church catch up on its arrears debt payments and otherwise saw the congregation grow. At first he was very supportive of the music, but by the time he left he was less so. Even though, on account of the poor finances of St. Martin’s, I did not take a salary, at the end relations were strained. I was reminded that elsewhere clergy-musician conflict could be dubbed the “war department.” At another local church, the priest and organist-choirmaster hardly spoke, and, as Clifford found out when he was there to borrow a little pipe organ (for this was before I acquired my own), the person in charge of music was not even allowed to make phone calls on account of the (actually minimal, I think no more than six cents per call at that time) cost to the parish.
For a national conference of the Episcopal Church on liturgy and music held locally in 1980, my connection with the Church (I was a member of the diocesan music committee) and with the Society for Old Music came together in an invitation to perform another liturgical music-drama. This performance initiated a period in which Clifford would pitch in and serve as dramatic director on a number of occasions, even returning long after my retirement to direct the staging of the Play of Daniel in 2002 for the Congress on Medieval Studies. For the music and liturgy conference, held at the Cathedral of Christ the King where we had frequently performed previously, I chose the Lazarus from the Fleury Playbook and used the score prepared by Fletcher Collins, Jr. Vestments, ranging from plain white albs to colorful copes and bright red tunicles, were lent or, if tattered, given to us by the Cathedral; further vestments came from other Episcopal churches and the Roman cathedral in town, the latter loan being facilitated through the auspices of Scott Wilson, who wore a chasuble and carried a cross as he played Christ. The First Baptist Church sent bell ringers. Instrumentalists added rebec, recorder, fiddle, and small organ, played by the Cathedral organist, Donalee Williams. The set was simple, as would have been the case in an actual medieval French monastery. Clifford created a tomb for Lazarus’ burial out of some material that had been left at our new house when we moved in a little over two years before, and he made a lid for it out of a piece of painted plywood. Into this “tomb” Lazarus, played by Kalamazoo College philosophy professor David Scarrow, would be placed in a white shroud. His sister, Mary Magdalen (in medieval tradition she combined three roles, including the sister of Martha as well as the repentant sinner who washed Jesus’ feet), was sung by soprano Jane Rooks, who wore red and had very long hair as reminders of her previous life as a prostitute. The long hair was also necessary for her appearance when she washed the feet of Christ at the house of Simon, played by Nick Batch, who was then serving in the army reserves in addition to his lawyering and teaching at the University. During one rehearsal he arrived late in uniform, but not too late to sing his part precisely on cue. The play ended with the Latin Te Deum, the song of joy and praise that is at least as early as the ninth century. The audience joined in singing it as we processed, led by a crucifer, until we had passed up the steps onto the balconies in the manner of a heavenly ascent. The intent of the play was originally not to achieve realism but to make the members of the audience “able to stand as if in the presence of the miraculous deeds of Christ,” according to the program notes that Clifford, based on his knowledge of medieval aesthetics, provided. The response to this play was very positive. One person in attendance, a very dignified person, told me that he almost wept. Doing plays such as this always made me somewhat nervous, since once the singers are trained and their roles learned, a director no longer has complete control, and even less control if one is confined to a wheelchair. But in this case particularly I feel my work with them was vindicated.
Our interest in producing more of these plays had nevertheless been piqued, and hence we accepted an invitation to join a group of others with similar interests, and in many cases less experience or ability, at Staunton, Virginia, during the second week of a workshop organized by Fletcher Collins, Jr. We all stayed at his great house, which, very large and too expensive for a retired academic to keep in good repair, had once been the property of one of Stonewall Jackson’s aides, and in the main it was accessible, as Fletch had promised. In spite of some sourness on the part of a few of the participants, we met and became friends with Margot Fassler, who would later become director of the Sacred Music Institute at Yale University and produce stellar scholarship in early music and liturgy, and Clyde (Nat) Brockett, who told of writing an article that unwound a musical puzzle and of receiving a response from the reader for a journal that he should “write no more.” There was also James Gibson, whose work on the liturgical Christmas play was accepted by Clifford for publication in Comparative Drama and whose most recent accomplishment is the Records of Early English Drama work on the county of Kent in three large volumes. From our acquaintance with these persons we have long benefitted, and we have reciprocated whenever possible. Each day at the workshop began with Latin Matins for those who wished to participate, so I learned to be more quick in reading the old square-note notation. The workshop concluded with a performance, I am afraid out of costume and in tee shirts and blue jeans mostly, of the Fleury Playbook Visit to the Sepulcher at one of the local Episcopal churches. Our return trip was exciting too, since I remember being helped onto perhaps the smallest plane in which I have ever flown for the flight to Pittsburgh. The cockpit was not separate from the passenger seating, and we saw the pilot maneuvering and zigzagging to dodge black clouds and lightning. It was one of the worst storms I have ever seen from the air.
By now I was organizing an extra concert every year by an outside group, sometimes local, as in the case of Fiori Musicali, a baroque ensemble organized by Judy Whaley who had long been involved in performing with Wind Forest and the Society, or ensembles from elsewhere in Michigan and Chicago. In 1981, the Society presented a concert of Netherlands music, beginning with Adriaan Willaert’s polyphonic Tota, pulchra est, using a beautiful mystical text from the Song of Songs 4:1-9: “Behold, you are beautiful, my love, your eyes behind your veil are like doves. . . .” This concert was in memory of our first patron, Dorothy Upjohn Dalton, who had generously helped the Society even before its incorporation as a non-profit. The large work on the program was Orlando di Lasso’s Missa “Il me suffit’,” which was based on a popular song of the time - a common practice for composing a Mass in the sixteenth century as well as earlier. I did not do the Mass à cappella, as is usual today, but with instruments, mainly recorders and capped reeds but also organ and strings, as was the practice in early times.
I was still teaching humanities, and would be for some time, but I also began to teach a women’s studies course, for which I never quite felt qualified. In spite of my support for the idea of having women priests, for instance, I could never see myself as a raving feminist like the nuns in a convent in Wisconsin who refused in their liturgy to use any masculine pronouns or nouns in reference to the deity. Those who took my class in those days could still be fairly radical, and some objected to concentrating on the women in the arts who created and performed works that are regarded as elitist. I am not sure that many of them cared about hearing of the musical compositions of my teacher Ruth Wylie from whom I learned so much, and this in spite of the fact that she was very interested in jazz style and performance. My own world of music, particularly early music, seemed very remote to most of them.
One of the developments of the Arts and Ideas course had been evolution into a class in which students attended concerts, art galleries, poetry readings, and plays, preceded by lectures that would give them guidance, whereupon they would be placed in smaller groups for discussion with an instructor. The “direct encounter” idea, for which my colleague Penny David was responsible, was in fact a big improvement over the old television and lecture course, but students’ expectations were still a problem. Nevertheless, from my point of view there were many good experiences, as when I took my students on a tour of the nineteenth-century houses in the local “historic district.” They always helped to push my wheelchair and to move it safely over curbs, and even to help me up the steps into the houses that were open to them for examination. I even enjoyed seeing some of the plays and musicals mounted by the University Theatre - for example, Pal Joey, at which Clifford joined me, since we had seen this show long ago on the Scott Hall stage at the University of Minnesota when one of the students from Clifford’s high school teaching days was in the orchestra. At other times shows came to Miller Auditorium, but I am afraid Annie would hardly be one of my favorites, and for Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead one could not hear well enough in a hall that holds 3,500 people. As a structure designed by the same architect as Ford Auditorium in Detroit, it was hardly very good for serious music since it is necessary to use electronic amplification to overcome the dead acoustics. I never really liked sitting in the back seats reserved for disabled people. There the acoustics were especially bad and the electronic amplification obvious. But some very good offerings were regularly being presented to which students would go, even if some of them dreaded that which to me was a genuine treat, such as the appearance by soprano Joan Sutherland on her last tour. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, some of the students came drunk to concerts - not a very good way of sharpening oneself to the sensory stimulation of an event. As for the lectures, I was the music specialist who could work with guests to see that they were organized and prepared for the kinds of students they would encounter. On occasion I was assisted down to the front of the lecture hall in Knauss Hall and did the talking myself, and more rarely I organized or presented short concerts for the students.
Among the university committees on which I served I am most proud of having been a member from 1970 to 1986 of the Handicapper Students Advisory Board, which served to assist the coordinator, Virginia (Ginnie) Norton. The layout of the campus was not very friendly to disabled students and faculty. Manually operated wheelchairs such as mine literally could not negotiate many areas of the campus without assistance, and even motorized wheelchairs could be under severe strain if too many inclines needed to be climbed. Automatic door openers were at first non-existent. I was lucky to be strong enough to be able to pull or push open the doors in the buildings in which I taught and even to go between some locations outside if the ground was flat enough; otherwise I had to have someone push me. This would often be a student volunteering his or her services. For a time there had not even been a ramp at the entrance to the main library, and the situation in the music library was even worse since it was placed atop the old music building where it was presided over by a librarian who refused to allow most books and scores to be circulated. There were no cut-out curbs anywhere - an insurmountable barrier to crossing the street for one in a wheelchair without assistance, and of course truly hazardous without competent assistance. Many restrooms, even in buildings built in the late 1960s, were inadequate. For many years the restroom closest to my office was sufficiently cramped that I had to leave my wheelchair outside and hobble in, on one occasion returning to find that my handbag, which I had inadvertently left behind, had disappeared. Fortunately it was found at the bottom of a stairwell a few hours later, and better yet missing only the cash that I had carried. My identification documents, including my passport, and credit cards were not taken. For the blind, markers on rooms and elevators and so forth were not yet in braille, and barriers that they found confusing and dangerous seemed to be everywhere. Ginnie was indefatigable, and, as an important accomplishment, before long the University had a vehicle with a lift to provide a transportation service for students who needed it.
None of the students that I taught or advised ever had OI, but quite a number had other kinds of problems, including mobility. Scott Keeler, for example, had a severe motor impairment that came from an auto accident some years previously - a terrible crash in which he was badly hurt and his mother killed by a drunk driver. He was essentially bright, but much slowed down by his disability, as when he found a computer course impossible since he could not understand the instructor, whose native language was Chinese. He spoke slowly: “I have to learn two languages, computer language and Chinese.” A phone call from me was all it took to have him placed in another class with a native speaker of English.
There had always been plenty of events in my life to cheer as well as to challenge the spirit. One August day Margery Selden had called to say that her son Paul, fresh out of undergraduate school at Concordia College in northwest Minnesota, was coming to the University to seek a doctorate in psychology. Shockingly his father had just died of an embolism while holding their youngest boy on his lap, and the family was feeling the need for special attention. We met Paul at the airport and installed him in our house until he could find an apartment, and later even boarded his boa constrictor for some weeks. We kept it in a locked room upstairs in our old house, and we did not feed it. A neighbor boy brought it food, I think mice. We have retained Paul’s friendship, and he would later be joined in town by his mother, who still maintains a busy schedule but visits me every week now that I am confined to the house.