The Chadron State Foundation on Friday recognized a monumental gift from a retired faculty member and his wife, Dr. Jackson and Peggy Hammitt of Rapid City, S.D., who have established a future gift of approximately $1 million for the benefit of the college’s music program.
The Hammitts announced in 2006 that they would be leaving a large gift to the Foundation, but had not publicly revealed an amount until a reception at the college Friday.
Jackson Hammitt said he’s certain the money will be put to good use, having witnessed funding challenges in his more than three decades of teaching music at CSC.
“Because this place was our home for so long, this seemed like the place to (donate the bequest),” he said.
Connie Rasmussen, executive director of the Foundation, noted that the Hammitts have long helped Chadron State. They support an annual $1,000 music scholarship in the memory of Jackson’s parents, J. Lewis and Helen J. Hammitt. They also annually support the music fund, which provides money for the department’s greatest needs, such as scholarships and travel.
“We have been pleasantly overwhelmed by the generosity of the Hammitts,” Rasmussen said. “Even though Jackson hasn’t taught at CSC in almost a decade, he and Peg continue to make a brighter future for the students of Chadron State College.”
In addition to those gifts, the Hammitts recently provided $35,000 to restore the first piano purchased by the college, a 1919 Steinway Model D concert grand piano. The piano is being restored by a Rapid City rebuilder and will be ready for a concert by CSC professor Dr. James Margetts in 2011 to commemorate the centennial.
“To buy a new one would cost at least $100,000, and it probably wouldn’t be as good as this one,” Jackson Hammitt said.
Margetts said the refurbished piano will be a great asset to the program, not only serving as a quality instructional tool, but also an attractive piece for recruiting and for use by performers who otherwise would not agree to present a concert at CSC. The Model D is the largest concert grand Steinway makes, Margetts said.
“Having that quality of a piano will help develop our students’ talents to the highest level,” Margetts said.
Friday’s reception featured numerous stories from the Hammitts’ friends and neighbors about the retired couple’s service and contributions to Chadron State and the rest of the community.
Hammitt taught 34 years at Chadron State and retired in 2001. He instructed courses in music history and literature, gave piano, organ and voice lessons, provided piano accompaniment for students and guest performers and frequently was a vocal soloist during concerts.
He also directed the Chadron Community Chorus for 29 years, almost always played the processional and recessional on the organ during commencements and sang the National Anthem at the college football games.
Peggy worked in the Chadron City Schools for about 33 years, mostly as an elementary media specialist and an instructor in the gifted program.
—Justin Haag, CSC Information Services
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