John Hiltonsmith, music instructor from 1984 until his passing in 2014, was memorialized with speeches and music as his portrait was unveiled in the Dining Hall February 21. The painting is the 14th in the Alumni Executive Board’s Faculty Portrait Series. Family and friends shed a few tears listening to touching – and amusing – remembrances and to the a cappella choir he founded, Beg To Differ, led by Director of Music Matt Tutor ’91. Tutor described how his former teacher convinced him, fatefully, to stay with music in college, rather than changing his major.
Academic Dean Flip Eikner ’77 spoke of Hiltonsmith’s versatility: “John lived his life far too fast for leisurely acquaintance. He had too much to do, and, man, he could do a lot: sing, conduct, play multiple instruments, arrange music, engineer recordings and sound boards, teach, orate, act, refinish furniture, refurb houses, refurb cars, refurb pipe organs, tune pianos, build, paint, and repair plumbing and electricity – you name it.”
Comic relief was the antidote for his tireless pace, Eikner said, recalling the time the two met. “He ran up urgently and demanded, ‘Quick! Ask me if I’m an orange!’ ‘Are you an orange?’ I asked. He paused, looked at me like I was an utter idiot, and said, ‘No,’ and walked away.”
Julia Hiltonsmith spoke about how realistic the painting by Bart Lindstrom was, how she could nearly smell her father’s Burberry cologne. “I almost expect his lips to part to whistle some tune, or for him to clear his throat in that rhythmic way that he used to,” said Julia, who was accompanied by her sister, Jennifer Pipkin (pictured above), and Hiltonsmith’s wife, Sherry Hiltonsmith.
“This is all to say how grateful I am to the school for honoring my dad in this way,” Julia said. “Seeing this portrait has reminded me of all the things I love about my dad, and I hope it does the same for everyone else.”