Nearly eight decades ago, Sidney Ehrhart ’50 sat in the audience as his older brother Richard Ehrhart ’46 performed on stage with the Gettysburg College Choir under the guidance of beloved director Parker Wagnild. With the melodic voices rising together to create beautiful harmony, the younger Ehrhart knew that he wanted to share that same stage.
That moment of revelation combined with a long family history of dedication to the College have led Ehrhart to make a $3 million gift to establish The Ehrhart Family Scholarship Fund and support renovations to the Sunderman Conservatory of Music’s Paul Recital Hall. Distributions from the endowed scholarship will support students intending to major in music and students demonstrating financial need. With the support provided by Ehrhart’s gift, Gettysburg students will be able to cultivate the knowledge and enduring skills needed to succeed in their chosen fields in an ever-changing world.
“It is especially critical that places like Gettysburg College have the resources to recruit and enroll the students who are trying to go make their path in the world of music and who in turn are going to nurture a love and a commitment to music,” said Gettysburg President Bob Iuliano. “Music is the heartbeat of any vibrant society. We can't really function without it and Sidney Ehrhart’s support makes certain that the artistry and the passion of our music students will continue to be fostered here at the Sunderman Conservatory of Music and across the college.”
As part of the gift, Ehrhart has committed $500,000 to begin renovations and upgrades to Paul Recital Hall. Utilized as the campus library until 1981, Paul Recital Hall will receive improvements that will provide clearer acoustics for performers and enhance teaching and learning within the space. It will be the most substantial improvements to Paul Recital Hall since at least 2006 when the Conservatory admitted its first class of students. These improvements will include:
- A large convex reflector positioned over the stage, which will greatly improve sound and communication on and from the stage;
- Diffusive panels with angled acoustical tiles on the rear walls that will help eliminate wall echo;
- Projective reflectors at the stage side wall opposite the windows, which will reduce sound build up on the stage;
- Back-leaning, angled reflectors at the lower side walls to reduce sound build-up for an audience or a rehearsing ensemble; and
- A mix of diffusion and felt on the wall opposite the windows for a mellower sound for all uses of the room.
“Ensembles rehearsing and performing from the stage will be able to hear one another much more clearly and be able to refine their performances to a much higher level without excessive strain,” said James Day, director of the Sunderman Conservatory. “Audiences will be able to enjoy a much clearer performance, with text and polyphonic textures projecting to the back of the room, and large instrumental ensembles will be able to enjoy rehearsing without an overwhelming amount of reverberation, allowing them to refine their sound and balance more accurately.”
“The proposed acoustical improvements to Paul Recital Hall will have a tremendous impact on teaching, learning, performing, and listening to music in this space--the aural equivalent of moving from a cloudy image to a clear and focused photograph.”
– James Day, director of the Sunderman Conservatory
Ehrhart’s gift is an ode to his family’s extensive ties to Gettysburg that go back more than 130 years. His grandfather, W.H. Ehrhart, was chaplain of his class and graduated in 1893, while his father, Rev. Kenneth S. Ehrhart, Class of 1925, carried on the legacy by earning a degree in Greek studies. In 1946, Rev. Ehrhart was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity and in 1961, he was proclaimed “Father of the Year” by the College.
Sidney Ehrhart, who majored in history and was a member of the Gettysburg College Choir for four years, and his four brothers—Kenneth Ehrhart Jr. ’46, Richard Ehrhart ’46, Carl Ehrhart ’47, and David Ehrhart ’62—each took turns as members of the campus community. Ehrhart’s late wife, Frieda Gaffney Ehrhart ’58, was a music education major and enjoyed a 36-year teaching career, including the last 12 years as chairperson of the music department of the West York Area School District.
Ehrhart married Sally Warehime Yelland in 2012. Sally and her late husband Bruce Yelland, were fourth-generation owners of the family business J.F. Rohrbaugh Company. Sally was deeply invested in the community through both her time and her philanthropic support, having served as a Red Cross Hospital Gray Lady and board member at Hanover Hospital. She also provided support for the Bruce Yelland study room at Drexel University, the Yelland Research Library at the Hanover Historical Society, the Hanover Area YMCA and YWCA, St. Matthew Lutheran Church, and the Guthrie Memorial Library.
While she maintained a level of anonymity with her financial endeavors during her lifetime, Ehrhart wanted to ensure Sally’s passion for helping communities was immortalized in a meaningful way. On Oct. 17, Gettysburg dedicated the lobby outside Paul Recital Hall as “The Sidney S. Ehrhart ’50 and Sally Yelland Ehrhart Reception Area” and added Sidney and Sally’s name to the Benefactor’s Wall, which recognizes the College’s most generous donors, including Sally’s uncle, Bill Warehime ’50, late owner of the Warehime-Myers Mansion in Hanover, Pennsylvania, which he donated to the Hanover Area Historical Society.
“Of course, none of this would happen if not for Sally,” said Ehrhart, who was a long-time guidance counselor in the Southern York County School District. “She was a wonderful lady, generous to a fault, and loved by everyone who knew her. She gave away much money in her lifetime, all of it anonymously. She wouldn't want recognition for any of it, but I think she would forgive me for violating that anonymity because I felt that I had to, and I wanted to put her name with mine on the Benefactor’s Wall.”
Following the lobby dedication, Ehrhart, his brother, David, and other family members sat inside Paul Recital Hall while the Gettysburg College Choir lifted their voices in song to honor their guests, performing “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” “Blue Skies,” “Beautiful Savior,” and “Ev’ry Time I feel the Spirit.” It was a tribute fitting for the moment, showcasing a passion for music and a love for Gettysburg College.
“Music has always been important in our family,” said Ehrhart. “I hoped when I got here, that I'd be lucky enough to get in the choir, and it happened. We performed four rehearsals a week and 20-plus concerts per year in community churches with a 10-day concert tour. There was no class credit and we didn’t care. We loved everything about it. We loved singing, we loved our sound, and we loved Wags, the most loved man I have ever known.”
By Corey Jewart
Photos by Abbey Frisco