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Music and Medicine: The Harmon Legacy
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Remembering “Doc”
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Postlude: Remembering “Doc”

By Julie Martin Mangis

“The Lord Bless You and Keep You”was a long-standing traditional ending to GW’s choral programs, and it was sung again as choral alumni and current student singers gathered in the lobby of Lisner Auditorium to honor the memory of Robert Howe Harmon, MD ’29, during GW’s 2000 Alumni Reunion Weekend.

They came from across the United States to dedicate a portrait bust of Harmon, who died in 1976. It was the culmination of several years of hard work by the alumni who had participated in choral groups under “Doc.” The sculptor, John E. Parker, BS’ 50, was one of those singers, and he drew from his personal memories in creating the bronze bust. Parker brings to his art the anatomical knowledge and demanding precision of medical illustration, having spent several years as chief medical illustrator at the National Institutes of Health. His illustrations are published in numerous medical works, and, while he is a self-taught sculptor, he has completed a number of portrait busts on commission.

While working from photographs taken of Doc during the 1950s, Parker labored to evoke the special qualities of his subject, and it is obvious that he succeeded. The clay bust was completed in 1998, but there was much more to do to transform it into bronze. A group of Harmon Choral alumni conducted a private fund-raising campaign to cover the foundry expenses. It was cast at the New Arts Foundry in Baltimore and was presented to the Department of Music.

The bust is installed on a pedestal in the northeast corner of the Lisner lobby accompanied by biographical information and special lighting. As the bronze surveys the many audiences that come to enjoy today’s performances, the choral alumni are comfortable that it is at home in that special place where Doc himself entertained all of Washington so many years ago.

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