The University community learned Friday of the passing of Dr. Ray Robinson, distinguished senior professor of music emeritus. Robinson died Thursday, Oct. 8, in Columbia, South Carolina. He was 82.
Robinson came to PBA in 1989 where he established a choral music program, broadened the repertory of the Concert Choir, founded the Oratorio Chorus and PBA Singers, taught courses in conducting and musicology, and was the keystone in building a first-class music faculty.
Robinson continued to teach at PBA until he retired in 2003 as distinguished senior professor of music. His wife, Ruth, also served in the University’s art department.
In 2004, Robinson was appointed music director and general manager of the Palm Beach Symphony. He also hosted a weekly one-hour radio program on WXEL-FM called Ovation South Florida.
In 2012, the Palm Beach County Cultural Council presented Robinson with a MUSE award for his contributions to the arts and culture of Palm Beach County. That same year, he was the featured speaker at Palm Beach Atlantic University’s Founders Day, an event that drew members of the community and alumni to campus to honor him. Robinson launched professional careers for countless numbers of his students in music education, conducting, music ministry, performance and academia.
“Dr. Robinson possessed an incredible ability to make each one of us feel loved, special and unique, with our own set of gifts that we could give back to God. It is only after his passing and after reading people's loving thoughts on him that I have realized that he made each person around him feel part of his inner circle of friends. That's the mark of a great man and a true follower of Christ, who always loved others unconditionally. I'm honored to have known him and to have called him my dear friend and mentor,” Christian Ramos ’02, worship pastor at Family Church West Palm Beach, said.
“I was blessed to experience Doc’s teaching and mentorship. He and his wife, Ruth, invested deeply in the lives of students and graduates, hosting us in their homes, recounting stories of interacting with famous musicians, and providing opportunities for networking and research. A world renowned scholar, Doc inspired me to travel internationally, to study primary documents, and to delve passionately into my discipline,” said Dr. Heidi R. Frederick ’03/’06 MBA, associate vice president and dean of the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies at Trevecca Nazarene University.
Robinson conducted in Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Poland, Romania and the Ukraine, where he performed a variety of literature for choir and orchestra. He was a recognized specialist in the music of Felix Mendelssohn, the contemporary Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki and the 17th century German composer Heinrich Schutz.
A native of the San Francisco Bay area, he attended San José State University’s music school where he concentrated his studies in conducting and viola. In his junior year, Robinson was drafted to serve in the Korean War. After completing his two years of military service, he returned to San José State University to complete his bachelor’s degree.
He went on to earn his master’s degree in viola performance and a doctoral degree in music education, conducting and musicology at Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana. He held his first teaching position at the university while he was still a graduate student. In 1959, he joined the music faculty at Cascade College in Portland, Oregon.
In 1963 at the age of 30, Robinson was named dean of the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Maryland. Six years later, he was named president of Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, which is now part of Rider University. The college honored him with a Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa in 1987. Upon retiring from Westminster that same year, he was named Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University’s Wolfson College in Cambridge, England.
Over the course of his career, Dr. Robinson wrote countless articles and authored 10 books on musicology, church music and the choral art, including: The Choral Experience; Choral Music: A Norton Historical Anthology; Krzysztof Penderecki: A Guide to his Works; and A Study of the Penderecki St. Luke Passion.
Robinson donated his music collection to Palm Beach Atlantic University, including research notes, books, photos, lectures, syllabi, music memorabilia and personal correspondence with some of the greatest composers and musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries. The collection is housed in the Warren Library and University archives.
Robinson is survived by his wife, Ruth, five children and 12 grandchildren. A memorial service is planned for 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 21 at Shandon Methodist Church, 3407 Devine St., Columbia, South Carolina. The family has designated memorial gifts to the Ray Robinson Memorial Scholarship Fund at Palm Beach Atlantic in memory of Dr. Robinson. Gifts may be made online at www.pba.edu/giving. Click on the “general and designated gifts” link on the left margin and complete the form provided. Or, mail checks payable to Palm Beach Atlantic University, with a note designating the gift to the Ray Robinson Memorial Scholarship Fund, to Palm Beach Atlantic University, Development Office, 901 South Flagler Drive, P.O. Box 24708, West Palm Beach, FL 33416-4708. If you are considering a gift of appreciated stock or a wire transfer of funds, please contact Vicki Pugh, vice president for development, at (561) 212-3637 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to read an article about Dr. Robinson from the Spring 2012 edition of PBA's alumni magazine, Current.