The most famous pipe organ in the world is named after Hazel C. Wright, a Chicago philanthropist who had an appreciation for the Rev. Robert Schuller’s “Hour of Power” broadcast from the Crystal Cathedral. As the story goes, Mrs. Wright was looking to make a donation toward Schuller’s ministry.
She was originally advised on a smaller project, $50,000 toward a garden. But Mrs. Wright was thinking bigger — much bigger. The negotiation kept rising, and in her generosity, she eventually settled on giving $1 million toward the construction of a massive pipe organ that would combine the campus’ existing 1977 Fratelli Ruffatti organ with a 1962 Aeolian-Skinner organ from Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.
Interestingly, Mrs. Wright harbored no particular affinity for the organ, but she knew about music’s central and powerful role in Rev. Schuller’s ministry. Her gift came unsolicited. By all accounts, Mrs. Wright was quiet and gracious, never seeking the limelight.
“She never wanted to be the center of attention,” said Dr. David Crean, author of a new book about the history of the Hazel Wright Organ. “She wanted the organ to be the center of attention.”
Since the instrument’s dedication in 1982, Rev. Schuller ensured that it was always called the Hazel Wright Organ. The Diocese of Orange has maintained its name and honored that legacy following its purchase of the cathedral campus.
Mrs. Wright died in 1984 at age 79. Her philanthropy was present throughout Chicago, but also in California. The Wright Gymnasium at the College of the Desert in Palm Desert is named after her, as is the Wright Building within the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.