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In Memoriam:

Dr. Robert Suderburg

                                                                                              Photo by Michael Avedon


The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) family is again mourning the loss of a former chancellor. Robert Suderburg, who served as the school’s third chancellor, died April 22 in Williamstown, Mass., at the age of 77. The school’s second chancellor, Robert Ward, died April 3 in Durham at the age of 95.

A composer, conductor and pianist, Suderburg was chancellor from 1974-1984.

Suderburg’s tenure as chancellor was marked by major capital improvements, financed through increased contributions from the state and private sources. Among these improvements were the completion of the Workplace and the opening of the Semans Library; the partial renovation of the old Gray High School building; the acquisition of the former Mack Truck facility; and the renovation of the old Carolina Theatre, now the Stevens Center.

“He led the school through a period of tremendous growth,” said Chief Advancement Officer Mark Hough, who was a student in the School of Drama when Suderburg was chancellor. “He was a lovely man, always there for the students. He had a great passion for the arts and for the School of the Arts.”

Hough said it is ironic that Suderburg should pass away during UNCSA’s current period of capital growth, which includes construction of a new state-of-the-art library. “I think he would be proud of where we are, and where we are going,” Hough said.

Rick Miller, who retired from UNCSA as dean of undergraduate and graduate academic programs, was a philosophy instructor during Suderburg’s tenure.  “We are grateful for his contributions. He raised the level of what we could accomplish,” Miller said. “He was a very innovative chancellor.”

As chancellor, Suderburg awarded UNCSA’s first honorary doctorates, to recipients that include author and school founder John Ehle, actresses Helen Hayes and Rosemary Harris, choreographers Agnes de Mille and Arthur Mitchell, film and theatre director Jose Ferrer, violinist and composer Itzhak Perlman, and guitarist Andres Segovia.

Suderburg is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; daughter, Erika; and son, Jonathan and family.  At his request, no memorial service will be held.


Robert Suderburg and Elizabeth Suderburg perform "Kaleidoscope" in 1982. 

Photographer: Charlie Buchanan


Robert C. Suderburg was a renowned composer, conductor, and pianist, devoted to the performance of 20th-century music. He received his B.A. from the University of Minnesota, an M.M. from the Yale School of Music, and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Suderburg's compositions have been published by Theodore Presser and performed nationally and internationally by major orchestras, ensembles, and solo artists, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Seattle and North Carolina symphonies, and the Philadelphia String Quartet. His works and performances have been recorded by Columbia, Vox and Delfon, among others.

Suderburg taught music at Williams College beginning in 1985. He became composer-in-residence in 1986, and served as Chair of the Music Department from 1986 to 1995. He retired in 2001.

Suderburg conducted and taught at Bryn Mawr, the Philadelphia Musical Academy, the University of Pennsylvania, and the City University of New York. Suderburg also served as Co-director of the Contemporary Group at the University of Washington (1966-1974), and President of the Cornish Institute in Seattle (1984-1985). He served on many boards and panels, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Composers Panel from 1975 to 1981.

He received fellowships, awards, and prizes including two Guggenheim Fellowships, two NEA Fellowships, numerous ASCAP awards, awards from the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Music Center, the USIA award, and others.


Robert Suderburg plays the piano for a performance of "Kaleidoscope" in 1982

Photographer: Charlie Buchanan


Sept. 18, 1974: UNC President William Friday (left) shakes hands with

Suderburg (right), as Dr. James Semans looks on, at the Suderburg Installation

Photographer: William Beck


Oct. 4, 1980: Dr. Robert Suderburg at the piano in a performance of "Kaleidescope"

Photographer: Charlie Buchanan


Oct. 18, 1975: L-R: R.B. Crawford, Lewis Hawley, Hillard Staton, Earline King, Skip Dunn, and Chancellor Suderburg (man behind Suderburg unidentified) at the groundbreaking for the Workplace

Photographer: William Beck

1976: Chancellor Suderburg at student/faculty baseball game

Photographer unknown

Dr. Suderburg with students, cheering on the Pickles

Photographer unknown

Roger L. Stevens (left) and Robert Suderburg in renovated Stevens Center

Photographer: Charlie Buchanan


Jan. 6, 1982: Robert Suderburg, Virgil McBride, James Hunt, and Ben Craig at the Governor's Dinner

Photographer unknown



Media Coverage:

* Williams College: The Passing of Robert Suderberg

*The Business Journal: Former UNCSA Chancellor Robert Suderberg dies

*The Winston-Salem Journal: Former UNCSA Chancellor dies



Special Thanks to the UNCSA Archives for providing the photos seen on this page. 

Visit the UNCSA Image Archives or the UNCSA Flickr account to see more pictures of Robert Suderburg.