Special Remembrance: Blanche Honegger Moyse
Blanche was a founding member of Marlboro College’s music faculty, with her husband Louis Moyse, and co-founder of three of the most widely respected institutions in the region—the Marlboro Music School and Festival, the Brattleboro Music Center and the New England Bach Festival. Hilly van Loon ’62 shares this special remembrance of Blanche, who died in February at the age of 101.
While Blanche’s reputation as interpreter of the choral music of Bach was world renowned, it was her gift as a teacher and her generosity as a member of the Marlboro College community that is cherished by legions of alumni who sang in the college chorus, studied with her and enjoyed the warm hospitality of the Moyse family in their West Brattleboro home, where cheese fondue was always on the menu.
John Lehmann-Haupt ’71, who studied harmony, solfege and guitar with Blanche, called her “a force of nature.” Students in her solfege class had what John describes as “gauzy expectations that were quickly put to rest by a blast of her Old World rigor.… I never had a harmony tutorial with her from which I didn’t emerge feeling more alive than when I had entered her studio.” Malcolm (“Orv”) Wright ’62 said he will never forget Blanche playing her violin to illustrate passages in a Bach sonata, and David Decker ’60, who sang tenor in Blanche’s chorus for years, credits her with providing the foundation of his music education. Tim Little ’65 said Blanche prided herself on being able to teach anyone to sing. “There was one student whom she kept after all semester, patiently trying to move him by half steps up to a sharp or down to a flat from his drone note, to no avail. But she never gave up.
My first vivid memories of Blanche go back 52 years, when I was a brand new transfer student and joined the weekly chorus rehearsals in Louis’ music studio (now Apple Tree). We were a community chorus really, singers that included faculty member Dick Judd, faculty wives Cynthia Boyden and Margaret MacArthur, Blanche’s mother-in-law, a scattering of veteran students and a few of us intrepid new students. We sat in a curve of creaky wooden chairs, and in the late-afternoon light that streamed in the southwest windows, began work on the first Bach cantatas I had ever sung, “Wachet Auf” and “Christ Lag in Todesbanden,” which we would later perform at the Retreat in Brattleboro.
Louis Moyse always accompanied us on the piano, a stump of an unlit cigar clenched between his front teeth. He and Blanche kept up a running commentary, largely in French. Blanche, whose keen ear could pinpoint a wayward pitch in a nanosecond, took us through our paces, occasionally stopping to ask pairs of us to sing a passage to isolate the pitch—terrifying moments. On Sunday evenings, when we were working on a large piece, we rehearsed with what Blanche called “the downtown chorus,” local Brattleboro singers who made up what would become the Brattleboro Community Chorus. Those concerts involved a full orchestra of musicians from the Marlboro Music Festival, something I will never forget. The long, late-night rehearsals were more fun to me than the concerts themselves, which only proved Blanche’s philosophy: “We do concerts so we can rehearse.”
It was pure serendipity that brought Blanche and her family to tiny Marlboro College in the hills of Vermont. The gifts she brought and shared not only affected the ethos of the college but profoundly enriched the lives of her students. We will never forget her.
Mary Piper Bolles, former trustee
A longtime trustee of Marlboro College and mother of graduate David Bolles ’65, Mary Piper Bolles died in San Francisco last November. Mary was born in Portsmith, Ohio, in 1913, the oldest daughter of Marie and William Thomas Piper, founder of Piper Aviation, and was raised in Bradford, Pennsylvania.
In 1931 Mary entered Radcliffe College, where she met her husband, architect and art gallery owner John Savage Bolles. Prior to graduation, Mary left Cambridge for her honeymoon in Egypt and Iran. They returned to the San Francisco Bay Area, where John entered his father’s architectural practice and Mary settled down to raise five children.
As her children left home, Mary began to pursue her interest in fine art, sculpture and landscape architecture, and worked with children with learning disabilities. She actively supported and served on the boards of several organizations, including Marlboro College from 1978 to 2005.
“I had once expressed to her son David that I was not fond of California wines, which were not as prevalent in the east as they are now,” said former president Tom Ragle. “At the next commencement, Mary and David placed a large paper bag of fine California wines prominently in my arms. There I was throughout the rest of the reception, holding the bag of wine under my left arm and shaking hands with my right. Upon tasting it later, I had to concede. Perhaps that was reason enough to put Mary on the board.”
Mary later became Marlboro’s contact for arranging gatherings in San Francisco. In 1981 Mary returned to Radcliffe, and in 1982, at the age of 69, she received her degree in sociology from Harvard University, one of her lifelong goals.
Thomas MacLean Griffin, former trustee
A trustee from 1987 to 1995, Thomas McLean Griffin died in November 2010 in Swampscott, Massachusetts. He was 88 years old. Born in Lake Placid, New York, Mac was raised in Springfield, Massachusetts. He attended Harvard College and ultimately graduated from Harvard Law School, though his studies were interrupted by World War II, when he served as a young officer in the Navy. Following law school, Mac married Hope Wiswall of Salem, Massachusetts, where the couple settled to raise their family of four children.
Mac practiced law, primarily as the general counsel of what was then known as the First National Bank of Boston. His interests, though, were wide and varied. He was actively involved in the Salem Athenaeum, as well as a long-standing board member of the Harmony Grove Cemetery, a member of the Whiting Club, a teaching commander in the naval reserve and a vigorous member of the First Church Unitarian in Salem.
“Mac Griffin was a wonderful trustee, bringing the wisdom of experience to Marlboro’s proceedings,” said longtime trustee Ted Wendell. “He was ever self-effacing, always guiding the proceedings through his pleasant wit and good humor.”
Mac was known to be a gregarious and engaging friend to all. He had a remarkable capacity to make connections with people wherever he went. Most importantly, in the last decade of his life, he was a devoted support to his wife, Hopie, who died in April last year after a decade-long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Winifred Clark ’51
One of the college’s pioneering women, “Winnie” Clark passed away at the age of 97 on Valentine’s Day, in Brattleboro. Born in Bennington, she attended Middlebury College and then came to Marlboro, where she served on the select board and studied education. She received a further degree in elementary education from Keene State College and taught in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, for a number of years. She wrote to the college paper, Marly, in 1956, “I am teaching a group of lively fourth graders. I find it quite a change to be explaining the intricacies of subtraction and spelling from studying Shakespeare and philosophy, but like it nevertheless.” Winnie also worked at the Northfield-Mt. Hermon School and the Experiment in International Living. A member of the First Congregational Church in West Brattleboro for 73 years, Winnie was a volunteer and supporter of a number of charitable causes in the area, most notably Brattleboro’s Habitat for Humanity Projects
William P. Toomey ’53
Bill Toomey died in April at the age of 81. He was born in North Adams, Massachusetts, and served on the Korean peninsula with the army’s 7th Infantry Division, which was charged with overseeing the Japanese surrender. In 1949 he enrolled at Marlboro on the G.I. Bill, graduating with a degree in sociology.
“He was always proud of having gone to Marlboro, and his experiences there influenced his whole life,” said Bill’s son Dan Toomey ’79. Bill worked for a short period as a carpenter in North Adams before beginning his teaching career in Readsboro, Vermont. Bill then earned a master’s degree in education from North Adams State College, teaching first at Brayton School and later for many years at Greylock Elementary School, as well as serving as assistant principal at both. An active athlete, he coached football and baseball and was an early member of the ski patrol at Dutch Hill in Heartwellville, Vermont.
Josiah (J.K.) Adams ’67
Josiah Adams died in April, at the end of a brave battle with cancer. J.K. was born in San Francisco, but after World War II his family moved to the East Coast, where he and his siblings were raised. He was a skilled pianist and organist, and involved in choral singing, pursuing these interests while at Marlboro College. In later years he also became an accomplished graphic artist, but he discovered that teaching gave fullest expression to his talents. He taught for eight years at St. John’s Episcopal School in Puerto Cortes, Honduras, and then for many years at the Elan School in Poland Spring, Maine. Among the courses he taught were physics, chemistry, organic chemistry, astronomy, history of music and philosophy, and he played important roles in designing the curriculum and in college advising. He taught with intense discipline, organization, enthusiasm and deep knowledge. J.K. was the father of Marlboro alumna Oona Adams ’94.
Thomas V. Durgin ’79
Tom Durgin died unexpectedly in March at his home in Thetford, Vermont. He was 57. A native of Maine, Tom studied biology, forestry, photography and psychology at Marlboro, completing his Plan on the symptoms and etiology of autism. Outside of his academic pursuits, Tom was known for helping design the infamous “road rallies” that were part of Fall and Spring Rites in the late 1970s. Directly following college, Tom worked with autistic children and for the educational software division of Houghton Mifflin. He then went on to a varied career in writing, editing and publishing for Human Capital Institute, working on journals such as Behind the Times, It’s Classified and Cheap Skiing Guide, and for SnoCountry.org. Tom was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed hiking, skiing, kayaking and sailing on the Maine coast. He was also interested in history, gardening, food and collecting treasures.
Jeanne Risica ’83
Jeanne Risica died on December 31, 2010, in Brooklyn, New York, where she had made her home for a number of years. Raised in Rhode Island, Jeanne came to Marlboro to study art, and completed a Plan in painting and Italian, studying with Frank Stout at Casa Campardi in Italy, where the college ran a program. Following Marlboro, Jeanne studied at the Art Students League in New York and spent the rest of her life as an artist. Her paintings were exhibited widely, from South Korea, Venezuela, Brussels and Italy to the northeast United States, frequently and most recently at the Dillon Gallery in New York City. Jeanne was also instrumental in tending the Red Gate Community Garden in Brooklyn, a task she was dedicated to for the past 10 years and that earned her the moniker “mother of the garden.”
Marcus Israel, former student
We received word that Marcus Israel died on July 3, 2010, in New York. A musician and “free spirit,” Marcus attended Marlboro with the class of ’93.
Longtime college neighbor and participant in the Marlboro Music School and Festival, violist Philipp Naegele died in January at the age of 83. Philipp first came to Marlboro in 1950, when he was invited to play chamber music with violinist Adolf Busch, flutist Marcel Moyse and pianist Rudolf Serkin in the formative first year of the festival.
He also played for the Cleveland Orchestra, under the distinguished leadership of Georg Szell, before joining the faculty of Smith College in 1964. Before his retirement from Smith in 2000, Philipp regularly performed with such ensembles as Music From Marlboro, the Cantilena Piano Quartet and the Vegh String Quartet.