On an autumn afternoon in 1970, the Franklin & Marshall Glee Club was struggling with a particularly difficult piece in the second-floor practice room of Diagnothian Hall when a jangling telephone interrupted the session.
Professor Hugh Gault, struggling to remain patient as his chorus wrestled with the composition, dispatched a student to answer the phone. No one was on the line, so practice resumed.
A few minutes later, another ring. Again, no response. A few minutes later still, the phone rang for a third time. Now Gault was fuming. He stormed into his office, grabbed the telephone and heaved it out the window, slamming the sash behind it.
It's a scene that Bruce Sussman '71 remembers with laughter and fondness, because in so many ways it defined the larger-than-life personality of the man who was the entirety of Franklin & Marshall's Music Department for many, many years.
Hugh Gault was a perfectionist; yet, he also was a teacher capable of tremendous patience with students who demonstrated a desire and dedication to learn and improve.
"There's not a day that I don't think of Hugh Gault. He's the reason I'm where I am today," said Sussman, who used his musical training at Franklin & Marshall as a springboard into a songwriting career with the popular artist Barry Manilow.
Sussman came to Franklin & Marshall with plans to become a lawyer, but Gault's influence as Glee Club director and as professor in the four music courses Sussman completed - the entire music catalogue at the time - changed his choice of careers.
"He was a titanic force," Sussman recalled. "I used to think of Diagnothian Hall as the Republic of Hugh Gault. Yet he was also an unbelievably elegant and articulate man who helped me see what I wanted to do with my life."
Another former student, Dr Robert L. Roschel '54, said that for all his bluster, Gault was a generous man who offered students his greatest gift: a passion for music. It was a passion that a relative of Gault's recalled to Roschel after Hugh's death.
"She said, 'His god was music.' I think that's very true," said Roschel.
Hugh Gault retired in 1981 after 31 years at Franklin & Marshall, years in which he directed more than 5,000 students in Glee Club activities, leaving a legacy of choral singing that still endures at the College.