January 6, 1914. William Scheide was born — the only child in a musical family. His father played the piano and his mother, a social worker, was also a singer. Scheide began to play the piano at age six. His grandfather and his father had earned their fortune at Standard Oil, using some of the money to begin an extensive collection of rare books and manuscripts in their home.
1936. Scheide graduated with a degree in history from Princeton University, which at the time had no music department.
1940. Scheide earned his master’s in music at Columbia University.
1946. A Bach scholar, Scheide founded and directed the Bach Aria Group, an ensemble that performed and recorded for 34 years.
1954. The Supreme Court case of Brown vs. Board of Education desegregated U.S. public schools — the case received support from Scheide, who had been asked to help by Thurgood Marshall, then a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and later the first black Supreme Court justice. Scheide served on the LDF board for 38 years.
1959. Scheide arranged to have the contents of his personal library moved into an addition at Princeton’s Firestone Library that replicated the original room built by his father, including its original leaded-glass windows, furniture, statues, and rugs.
The collection includes an early 14th-century manuscript of the Magna Carta; the first four Bibles ever printed; an original copy of the Declaration of Independence; Shakespeare’s first, second, third, and fourth folios; musical manuscripts of J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert and Wagner; and Emily Dickinson’s recipe for chocolate pudding, among many others.
Other contributions to the university include the Scheide Scholars program; the Scheide Professor of Music History; funding for the reconstruction of the Woolworth Center of Musical Studies, including the three-story Arthur Mendel Music Library; funding for the Scheide Caldwell House, which provides offices and classrooms for several key humanities initiatives; significant donations to Firestone’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, among them a collection of European legal documents spanning the 11th to the 19th centuries; a pastel of John Milton, done from life; and a rare first edition King James version of the Bible, published in London in 1611; and support for the Princeton University Art Museum.
January 18, 2008. Scheide and his wife, Judith, began the tradition of an annual concert to celebrate Scheide’s birthday and to raise funds for community organizations.
January 25, 2014. “Ode to Joy,” the concert celebrating his 100th birthday, featured the Westminster Symphonic Choir, the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, several soloists, and a performance of “Prelude for Piano Four Hands,” a piece Scheide wrote as an undergraduate.
November 14, 2014. Scheide died at home in Princeton.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, November 29, at 3:30 p.m. at Nassau Presbyterian Church, 61 Nassau Street. The service will be simulcast in Richardson Auditorium, Alexander Hall.
Contributions may be made to Centurion Ministries, a Princeton-based nonprofit whose mission is to free from prison innocent individuals who were wrongly convicted and sentenced to either life or death; and Isles, a Trenton-based community development and environmental organization.