The College of Performing Arts bids farewell to several key faculty and staff members this month. In his commencement address, Dean Giulio Ongaro shared some thoughts about the following Chapman faculty and staff who have made an impact on the college over the years:
“This is an unprecedented year … for the number of goodbyes we will say to members of the staff and faculty, and I would ask for your indulgence as I say a few words about some very important people.
First, Iris Gerbasi [who] retires from the position of Assistant Provost, but who also has deep ties to the Department of Theatre, not least because her father, Henry Kemp-Blair, was faculty here and such an important figure that the annual Shakespeare Festival is named after him. The festival was run by Iris for almost 20 years. She also taught in Theatre for many years, starting in 1982. For a little over 20 years (1984–2005), she was on the producing team for American Celebration, now Chapman Celebrates, most recently serving as its executive producer. She was Associate Dean of the then School of Communication Arts (CoPA did not yet exist) before joining the provost’s office in 2007. She is the ultimate Chapman family member and I want to salute her on her well-earned retirement.
Joann King. Joann is my assistant but that does not quite capture what she does. She was a student at Chapman in the 1970s, and I am told she played Judy Garland in a review, as well as other roles, a fact she carefully avoided telling me. She joined Chapman staff about 25 years ago helping the staff of the School of Communication Arts, and she quickly distinguished herself for her work ethic and her ability to handle complex situations with ease. One of her co-workers at the time says, ‘What a blessing she was to us. She is smart, thorough, efficient and willing to jump in and help students, faculty, the Dean and Associate Dean as needed. And she always did her job with great heart and kindness. She’s one of the good ones.’ I have worked with Joann for seven years now and I can attest that this description is spot-on. She has done all of her work with great love for Chapman and its students, and I will miss her very much.
Dr. Paul Floyd. Paul is a star collaborative pianist and opera coach. He is a great part of the success of Opera Chapman. He worked as assistant conductor of L.A. Opera for 16 years, and continues to collaborate with the organization. For many years he has worked his magic at Chapman, most recently jumping in and conducting the orchestra in a magnificent performance of the opera Florencia en el Amazonas by Daniel Catán, a gorgeous but difficult score, which he conducted masterfully. Paul is a true gentleman and a top-notch musician, and we wish him well.
William Fitzpatrick, Artist in Residence and Temianka Professor of Violin since 2014. Bill has decided to return to France with his wife, and he is now in Nantes. Bill studied at Juilliard where he acquired a love for chamber music. He was founder and first violinist of the New York String Quartet, and has held faculty posts in France and the U.S., conducted the Nashville Chamber and Symphony orchestras as well as the Ensemble de Deux Mondes in Paris, and recorded for multiple labels and media organizations. Bill is the founder and director of MusiShare Young Artist Program which, over the years, has provided a forum for young string players to perform in showcase concerts and in master classes with renowned international string pedagogues. And Bill is truly one of the best human beings I know and I can only wish him all the best in retirement!
Robert Becker, Associate Professor of Viola and, upon his retirement, Professor Emeritus of Chapman University. Bob is our grand marshal this year for the commencement ceremony. Bob is another graduate of Juilliard and served from 1982 to 2016 as the principal viola of Pacific Symphony, appearing on all of their concerts, tours, and recordings. He joined us in 2006 and served for 13 years as Program Director for Strings. He also served the greater strings community as President of the American String Teachers Association for the Greater Los Angeles Area. His performing career is amazingly varied and accomplished. He can be heard on over 500 film scores and recordings of jazz, country and pop, and performed with a true pantheon of musicians. With the American String Quartet, which he founded, he won several prestigious awards, including the Naumberg Chamber Music Award. He is in demand as a clinician and adjudicator, and he truly enjoys nurturing our talented students. Bob left a big mark on Chapman, and I will certainly miss the discussions we have had (some about music), and I hope he will come see me and engage me in more of those. Best to you, Bob.
And finally, our keynote speaker, Dr. Peter Atherton, who will also be known from now on as Professor Emeritus. Peter is the founding director of Opera Chapman and built and maintained this impactful program, and early on truly singlehandedly: it continues on because of his efforts. With a deep background as a teacher and performer, Peter has drawn on artistic sensibilities and themes which really touched his audiences. As a teacher, he has numerous students singing internationally and working as teachers who are making important contributions to the lives of young artists. His legacy is a living one with roots at Chapman and branches all over the world. We are grateful for his tenacious spirit, his inventive approach, and his stalwart support of the Opera Chapman program. And, by the way, when I get to campus, no matter how early I get there, Peter has beaten me to it: he is one of the hardest working people I know and I enjoyed all the productions he has mounted in my time here.”