Limestone University music professor Dr. David Thompson will mark an end of an era Saturday when he hears the final notes from “Pomp and Circumstance” ring through Fullerton Auditorium.
Thompson will play the traditional graduation processional for a 116th time on a vintage organ before the music professor officially retires from Limestone after 30 years. He is one of the few musicians to play the Aeolian Skinner organ housed under Fullerton Auditorium.
The organ was built in 1946 by G. Donald Harrison, the president of Aeolian-Skinner Co. in Boston.
Harrison built the famous organ in the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City two years after he built the organ for Limestone. The organ was refurbished by Limestone in 2005.
“We are very fortunate to have this historic organ. It’s a fine instrument to play. It really should be played more,” Thompson said. “Organists are a dying breed. We haven’t had any organ students at Limestone since the mid-1980s.”
It’s one of a few musical regrets Thompson carries with him as he spends his spare time packing up his office this week at Carroll Fine Arts building. He estimates he has been the main accompanist for 400 Limestone musical performances during his years as a professor.
He has traveled with the Limestone music department on choral concert tours to Germany and England.
With his wife Sharon, they have made a life built around family and shared musical experiences.
The couple met while undergraduate students at Limestone College and graduated in 1979. They immediately went to graduate school and earned their master’s degrees in music at the University of South Carolina.
While living with their young daughter in Colorado, they decided it was time to explore a musical adventure overseas.
This decision led to living in Iceland for 2 1/2 years in the small town Husavik, located 100 miles from the Artic Circle. Their daughter, Gina, was three years old and started school in Iceland.
“We were living in Colorado Springs. We had a bit of wanderlust and just felt led to do something different. We started investigating music jobs overseas. We came across jobs available in a small town in northern Iceland and decided to move there,” Thompson said. “We taught music and worked in churches. Our son (William) was born in Iceland. We have a lot of good memories from our time there and have been back to Iceland to visit.”
Thompson returned to the University of South Carolina in 1990 to work on his doctorate degree. As he finished his doctorate, the Blacksburg native decided to apply for an opening to become a music professor at Limestone College.
“We had a wonderful undergraduate experience. Limestone had so many good things to offer to us,” Thompson said. “I was thrilled when the opportunity came about in the summer of 1993 to come back to work at my alma mater. (Former Limestone) president Dr. Walt Griffin had a favorite quote, ‘Find a small college and fall in love with it’ … that’s exactly what I did.”
Thompson and his wife plan to spend some time traveling once he retires. They won’t stay too far from home, especially with their children and grandchildren living in Gaffney.
Thompson is the worship leader and directs his wife in the choir Sunday mornings for the 8:30 a.m. church service at First Baptist Church in Gaffney. He then attends the Limestone Presbyterian Church morning service where he sings in the choir under his wife’s direction.
While the couple will continue to lead their church choirs, Thompson also plans to stay involved in the community and return to Limestone music performances.
He just won’t be the one playing the music.
“I’ve had a wonderful experience at Limestone and have really enjoyed working with (interim president) Dr. Monica Baloga. I feel she has things moving in the right direction,” Thompson said. “I’m going to miss being around the students. It probably won’t really hit me until the fall semester when it’s time to go back to school, and I don’t go.”
Limestone will hold its graduation ceremonies that Saturday at 9 a.m. and 12 p.m.
(Article by Scott Powell, The Gaffney Ledger, May 5, 2023. Photos by Limestone University Department of Communications & Marketing.)