$4 million gift to U sounds the return of Northrop’s pipe organ

In the glorious $80-million revitalization of Northrop, which reopened a year ago Saturday, there has been one missing piece.

In the glorious $80-million revitalization of Northrop, which reopened a year ago Saturday, there has been one missing piece (two, if you count the great chandelier, which was too big for the new space): its historic Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ, originally installed in the 1930s. 

Forty feet high, with thousands of pipes in 108 ranks and four manuals (keyboards), the organ has been in carefully catalogued storage, awaiting the nearly $3 million needed for restoration.

When designing the new Northrop, HGA Architects left a place for it to be reinstalled one day, and a way to bring it in.

In Thursday’s “State of the U” address, University president Eric Kaler announced a gift of more than $4 million from alumnus Roger Anderson that will fund the return of the organ. Dr. Anderson’s gift also completes the funding of the new Bell Museum and supports an important new position at the Weisman Art Museum.

Here’s the prepared text from Kaler’s speech:

On another front, this University is central to preparing the talent force and infrastructure for our state’s arts and cultural communities. Those who love the arts and natural history understand our role, and their engagement via philanthropy is critical to the future of the University. Listen to the story of alumnus Dr. Roger Anderson.

Dr. Anderson wanted to honor his brother, a combat medic who died in World War II. Dr. Anderson established two endowed professorships to advance the field of research that supports veterans and combat medics. Dr. Anderson also shared a love for the U’s rich cultural footprint. Today, we honor that legacy by announcing a gift of more than $4 million from Dr. Anderson, whose generosity will allow us to make three investments.

First, Dr. Anderson will allow us to complete [the] renovation of glorious Northrop – our reborn iconic symbol of arts and culture – with a $2.8 million gift [to] enable the return of its historic pipe organ, which has been silent too long. That means the rebirth of all 6,975 pipes, which since their installation more than 80 years ago, have long been considered one of the wonders of American music.

Second, today we can also announce that our efforts to provide a new home to the Bell Museum have reached an important milestone. Thanks to Dr. Anderson’s gift of $1.7 million, we have reached our goal to fund the new Bell, and we will soon break ground on our St. Paul campus for a 21st century natural history museum that will benefit the students and citizens of our state for generations to come.

And third, Dr. Anderson’s gift will allow our Weisman Art Museum to establish a Director of Creative Collaboration position for its Target Studio, a position to further strengthen that spectacular cultural gathering place on campus. These are wonderful gifts that honor not only a visionary alum, but also our University’s cultural history, and our commitment to reciprocal engagement, be it partnering with schools or history and arts lovers statewide.

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