Dee and Gail Clarke, of Watchung, have given the gift of music to New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). The Clarkes, long-time supporters of the university, have donated a carillon and a supporting bell tower to NJIT. The bells of the carillon now sound from a site near NJIT’s new Campus Center.
The 55-foot tall carillon tower will be dedicated on Sept. 13 to the university’s presidents – past, present and future – in recognition of each president’s role in guiding the NJIT through the decades.
(Editor’s Note: The dedication is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 13, from 10:30 - 11: 30 a.m., at the site of the bell tower. The Clarkes will attend the ceremony.)
“It’s one thing to imagine it, but it’s another thing to see the carillon,” said Gail Clarke, upon visiting the campus and first seeing the sleek, modern, bell tower.
Gail, who graduated from Newark College of Engineering in 1944, has served as president of the NJIT Alumni Association and has been long active in the affairs of his fraternity, Sigma Pi. Dee and Gail also serve on the Leadership Circle Council of the NJIT Annual Fund.
In addition to his philanthropy, Gail’s commitment to NJIT encompasses energetic involvement in alumni activities over the years. After serving as a naval officer in World War II, Gail embarked on an engineering and sales career in the HVAC field — heating, ventilating and air-conditioning. On a sales-incentive trip to Denmark that he earned while associated with Carrier Air Conditioning Company, Gail decided to visit the mechanical musical instrument museum in Copenhagen…and a lifelong passion was born. Dee, a formally trained musician, shares Gail’s fascination with mechanical devices that make music.
They keep a horse in their living room. Not a real horse, but an antique wooden steed from an old carousel. Their house is rife with music boxes, calliopes, fairground organs, reproducing pianos and nickelodeons.
Gail explains that his interest in these instruments is as deeply rooted in science and cultural history as it is in his love for music. Such instruments were a prevalent source of public entertainment from the mid-nineteenth century through the early twentieth. Beautifully crafted, they are also technologically complex. In fact, building on the skills and technologies inherent to these instruments, many manufacturers went on to pioneer fields ranging from electrical products to aviation.
The breadth of Gail’s interests is also reflected in what he says about choosing to study mechanical engineering as a young student. The curriculum appealed to him because it drew from so many disciplines, from chemistry to surveying. Gail’s interdisciplinary perspective, perhaps somewhat ahead of his time in the 1940s, carries over to the thoughts he would like the carillon to inspire when it sounds on campus.
“I hope people will pause and reflect on how a creative combination of science and art can make life better,” he says. “You should also be able to take a moment or two and just listen to the music.”