“Dean Burgett has had, and will have a lasting impact on my life.
Alyssa M. Shoup '10
“Even though I never took a class with him...It was always stuck with him how he would greet everyone in such a loving and gregarious manner. I asked him why we didn't sing the second verse of the school's anthem and he chuckled and told me to keep looking! He'll be missed.
Gerardo Torres Davila, student
“The University and the entire Rochester community has lost one of its brightest lights. Paul was a remarkable influence on a countless number of people at this great University, including me. Our eighteen year friendship, and our many lively conversations will remain with me forever. I will remember too, that each time I walked into his office, he unfailingly greeted me with “Hello friend!” He led a full and wondrous life and will be remembered by all who were fortunate enough to have known him.
Doug Phillips, Senior Vice President
“Dean Burgett was an incredible inspiration to me. Seeing him, an established African American man, gave me hope when I was secretly doubtful that the path I was on would lead me to success and happiness. He showed us all what was possible when you approach life with fire and passion and I couldn't be more thankful for all the encounters I had with him.
Peyton Johnson, Eastman School of Music student
“Paul Burgett tended to address new people, particularly students, as "Doctor". . . planting a seed that often grew to the exploration of subjects far and wide, to intensely detailed levels of mastery. Paul addressed me that way in 2012, the year my father died. I will complete my DMA at Eastman in May of next year. And, it is my distinct, though now sorrowful, privilege to dedicate the beginning of this journey to his memory. I so wanted to shake your hand on that stage Paul. There'd have been a bear hug too, I know. I am grateful beyond words for you, your life, your friendship, and the lasting effect you've had on thousands of people. Your memory will be a blessing.
Mark Powell, Institute for Music Leadership Faculty
“Paul Burgett was such a wonderful member of the Rochester community. His passing is a sad loss, and he will be missed dearly.
Ian Steinfield, student
“Thank you. I thank you for everything you taught me. I thank you for your words of wisdom and showing me what an exemplary man looks like. RIP my king.
Farid Adenuga, alumni
“Paul Burgett leaves an indelible mark on the University, and especially on student life. He was ubiquitous, approachable, funny, talented, and incredibly intelligent. I cherish my moments with Paul, watching him interact with students, learning from him, laughing with him. It seems that we must now do the unthinkable: conceive of a University of Rochester without Paul Burgett. But there will never be a University of Rochester without Paul Burgett, will there? In every address he made to students, after reminding us all that he was here "since the Earth's crust began to cool," he admonished all to pay attention to the fact that the University evolves, and he encouraged all of us to think about the leadership that each can exercise in shaping the University. "If not you, then who?"
Matt Burns, Dean of Students
“RIP, Dean Burgett. You were a kind man who always offered a smile, a story, and a different perspective. You will be missed.
Chris Sabis '00
“The fiery furnace forged a legend. He will remain the most universally recognized and beloved figures in the history of a great university. This is a sad day.
Jonathan Burdick, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid
“He was one of the kindest men I have ever met. His work with the Music students will never be forgotten.
Derick White, student
“Paul will always hold a special place in my family’s heart. As head of the search committee to find the new dean of the Eastman School of Music in 2007, Paul led the charge that brought my husband Douglas Lowry here to be Eastman’s sixth dean. Doug was so fond of Paul, as am I. They had a very special bond and Doug was so happy when Paul agreed to narrate, “The Freedom Zephyr,” a piece composed by Doug for the RPO. Find the cd and take a listen, I’m so glad I’ll always have it to hear Paul’s beautiful voice. A voice of an angel. You will be sorely missed Paul. Thoughts and prayers to Kay in this very difficult time.
Marcia Lowry, friend
“This is a very sad day for all of us associated with the University of Rochester! Dr. Paul "Dean" Burgett was a hero of mine! Twenty years ago nearly to the day I received the inspirational "Fiery Furnace" speech and never looked back. Dean B was my Take Five mentor and a great friend. Under his mentorship, I studied the history of jazz and its impact on race relations in our country. He helped transform my racial biases and gave me an appreciation for what it means to be 'black' in our country. I will forever be indebted to his contribution to my life. Rest in peace Dr. Burgett, you are one of the most important figures in the history of the University of Rochester and the school and all her graduates will remember you so very fondly.
Nick Krebs '03
“I am so saddened to hear this news. I first knew Paul from his days at the Eastman School and I always knew I could turn to him when things were difficult or when I needed a supportive shoulder. He was overwhelmingly loving and often made me laugh He was a shining light--and I will miss him, dearly.
Ellen Koskoff, Professor Emerita, Ethnomusicology
“I am completely at a loss for words...Dean Burgett was more than an educator, administrator, and mentor, he was a FRIEND!! He ALWAYS believed in me and is one of the few men that has made a significant impact on my life...I will miss our conversations.
Jerry Rugley, former student
“I am thankful to Dean Burgett for making me feelmwelcome and included. His smile would warm up the room even in Rochester. I will always remember him like he remwbered me even 25 years afyer we met! I am.saddened by his loss, but I know now he is playing his music eternally.May his family find comfort in the wonderful memories he left.
Maritza Buitrago, alumni
Arts and Sciences Class of '95, Warner Class of '96
“I was lucky to have Dean Burgett as my freshman advisor 20 years ago. He embodied all that I love about the University and pushed me to live the Meliora spirit. One of the greatest honors (and motivating events) of my life was being anointed a “heavy muffin” by him. In his honor, I will try even harder to be ever better.
Janis Coughlin-Piester, alumnus
“As my pre-major advisor, Dean Burgett was one of the first people I met during my time at the University of Rochester. He was unendingly generous and kind to all of his students, encouraging them to do what they were good at and what they were passionate about. I will always remember when he said to myself and the rest of his advisees, "One day you'll come visit me in Mt. Hope Cemetery and say, 'Dean B, look at me now, I'm President of the University,' or whatever your dream might be." I just didn't think that day would come so soon. It saddens me to know that the first-years arriving on campus this week will never truly know how much he gave to our community. Much love Dean B, you'll be greatly missed.
Andria Rabenold, '18
“This is an immensely sad and shocking loss--a great man, the best possible ambassador for the University, the Eastman Museum, and our community. Rest In Peace.
Jack Garner, Fellow Trustee with Paul at the George Eastman Museum
“In addition to his many contributions to the University and broader community, Paul was that rare individual who made everyone better by his presence. He will be missed deeply.
Janice Bullard Pieterse, author
Our Work is But Begun: A History of the University of Rochester
“Paul was freely giving of his time and his talent. His generous spirit was quick to draw people to him in any situation. As a Rotarian I was blessed with his magnificent singing and glorious sense of humor. Any room will be less for his absence. God will have him leading the angel choir.
Linda O'Neil, Rochester Rotary
“I can think of few people in my life more inspiring and positive than Dean Burgett. That one so busy would take time out to see me in person years after graduating while on his vacation, or when i made last-minute trips home to UR - his generosity knew little bounds.
He was my first big-time greeter/welcomer to UR at orientation. He was funny, smart, talented, booming "older-than-dirt" speaker that captivated a auditorium without notice (something he often had to do when a scheduled speaker was running late). While his positivity provided motivation and charm to the sometimes bruised UR brand, he was also incredibly thoughtful and could be extremely intimate when needed.
I have MANY memories with Dean Burgett, including several more recent of him asking me to call him Paul.
He pulled me aside in September 1995, and with a very serious and quiet tone told me how big of a deal it was that our Students' Association cabinet was the most diverse, talented, and inclusive group he'd ever encountered in UR student government. He was deeply impressed and would be even more impressed, adding a smile, if they could all stay together more than 6 months (which they did :-) ).
He called me at 7am one morning after a tragedy on campus that I'd need to get up quickly to learn details and make statements. At 7:10 he called me again with a stern voice, "Kaleb, are you awake? PLEASE WAKE UP NOW!" as he deduced I was still mostly asleep and hadn't understood anything on the first call. He knew when to be funny and when to be serious - he understood me as a student.
Even though his titles changed with much-deserved promotions, he still remained as warm and welcoming as ever. I could talk to him about any topic, thoough higher education and music remained the realms of his greatest expertise. I cannot think of any one person who better represented UR, as its Dean, VP, and ambassador. He showed us our better sides and made us want to get better. I will miss and remember you always, Paul. Meliora.
Kaleb Michaud, alumni
“This is a huge loss to the UR community and to uncounted many among us who knew Paul personally and were better for it. Treasure your memories and count your good fortune for knowing Paul.
Dale McAdam, Emeritus Professor of Psychology
“Paul was an icon and a role model, a leader and mentor, and perhaps most of all, a friend. His unwavering dedication and support for our POC students, queer students, and the entire UR student body will not be forgotten. Rest In Peace, you will be missed.
Sarah, student, Class of 2018
“I had recently reunited with dear Dean Burgett in my work on the UR Board of Trustees. Paul was just as positive, energetic and inspirational as I had remembered him from my student days at Eastman, some 30 years ago! He acknowledged the spark in every single student, and championed us all. It was his affirmation of me, as an insecure freshman, which sustained me through the "fiery furnace." Here is Paul, inspiring students to persevere. My husband Jeff and I send our deepest sympathies to his beloved Kay. We mourn with our entire UR community.
Joan Sapiro Beal, Eastman '84, Board of Trustees
“When I first heard him talk about how he's been around since the "earth's crust began to cool" in his booming beautiful laugh, I knew, I would aspire to be like him forever. He is the paragon of dedicating to people, fulfilling promises and valuing traditions. I enjoyed listening to Lester Young or monitoring Wegman's Hall being built together. He has helped me and many friends with jobs and degrees we love. He did it all without anything but optimism and laughter.
When I took his History Of Jazz class, I was sitting in the aisle of Lower Strong Auditorium at around 3:30PM after a long lunch one day. I started to doze off. He would often walk through the aisles to make his points well understood. He noticed my eyes drifting, walked up next to me and with his tuba of a voice exclaimed his next sentence. I gasped so loud and fell out of my seat. He laughed and said "would it be easier if we scheduled this as a night class?"
Dean B, you are the greatest teacher I've ever had and will continue to be. Thank you.
Rishi Sharma, Class of '15 and '16
“What in incalculable loss to the world, as Paul was a citizen of the world. He was larger than life yet he made a difference in the lives of so many individuals. Many of us were privileged to have Paul take an interest in us and in our success. His kindness, generosity of time, his enthusiasm, humanity, and keen intellect, amongst many, many other fine qualities, will be deeply missed. On behalf of the University of Rochester Libraries, our deepest condolences to Paul's wife and family.
Mary Ann Mavrinac, Vice Provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean, University of Rochester Libraries
“So saddened to here of Paul’s passing. I was so looking to seeing Paul at our annual reunion luncheon next month. RIP Paul.
Ron Kindred, former band member of Paul’s, with the 98th. Division Army Reserve Band.
“My first impression was a genuine concern of Dean Burgett who assisted me with some financial aid concerns. His insights and steps taken to work with the finance office resulted in a successful year for me. I’ve always seek Dean Burgett out for guidance at UR. He has definitely change many minority’s lives and will be missed.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the Burgett family.
Dr. Uletha Jones, School of Nursing, Class of 1995
“Dean Burgett was a Yellowjacket in every sense of the word! He loved the University and ALL it's members. He LIVED the Blue and Gold, and made our beloved University a better place just with his presence. Paul Burgett was an inspiration to simply BE BETER! God bless you my friend, thank you for just being you!
Dennis Braniecki, alumni and parent
“Dean Burgett, at the time I attended, was notably down-to-earth for a man of his position. As a scholar and a mentor, he was truly a wonderful educator. We've lost one of the great ones!
Leah Harper, alumnus
“Paul lived life to the fullest, and his enthusiasm was infectious. I see him in heaven leading everyone in singing “The Genesee” , (obviously only the first and last verses). His passing leaves a big hole in the heart of the U of R - Rest In Peace our beloved yellowjacket.
Gwen Greene, Class of ‘65, Board of Trustees
“Dean Burgett was an incredible man and I always enjoyed hearing him speak, he was always able to brighten your day. God Speed and God Bless.
Garrett Gay, alumni
“Dean Burgett - even as adult I could never bring myself to call him Paul out of immense respect - was the kindest, most incredible, scholar at the University. I always marveled at how he was able to remember the names of what were likely tens of thousands of students and alumni. I ran into Dr. Burgett a few months ago just before commwncwmwnt and he let me buy him breakfast. It was just McDonald's breakfast but it was part of his routine. He Told me he was proud of me and followed my business and travels on FB and that meant the world to me. Dr. Burgett will be greatly missed. Happy I recently had I last time to show my love and respect. Prayer to Dean Burgett's family and to the entire UofR family who, like me is hurting right now.
Tim Talley, alumni, BSEE '88
“Dean Burgett was always generous with his smiles and I felt so proud to know him. He especially supported the arts/theater and although I knew he was rooting for everyone, I always felt like he was rooting so specifically for me. He will be missed and dearly remembered and included in my own teaching...
Kali Quinn, Class of 2003, BA English/Theater
“Paul was a giant. So approachable and the few minutes he spent with you wer always of quality. He wrote me a recommendation for business school. My knees were knocking when I went to ask him - I wondered if he would even remember me. Not only did he remember the brief encounter, it turned into an hour long conversation about life, business and philosophy. I will never forget it. Rest In Peace good sir.
Jim Dass, Class of 1989
“Dean Burgett embodied the highest ideal of a leader. Up until the very last moments, he was thinking only of other people --- his family, his students, and his community. I will deeply miss my trusted advisor, beloved mentor, and dear friend, but intend to honor his legacy of compassion, patience, honesty, and humor in everything that I do.
Antoinette Esce '15, '19M
former student body president, current medical student
“No individual past or in the future will boldly embody all that UofR is more than Paul Burgett. His smile was infectious, his humor contagious, his compassion and empathy boundless. I will miss our periodic Facebook chats and am saddened at the classes of students to come who will never know him in person.
Adam Keats, Class of 1995
“Meeting Dean Burgett was like encountering a Giant in the story of the University of Rochester. He inspired me to not only learn the history of the UofR, but to write my own chapter in the book of our great institution. He embodied the true meaning of Meliora and I am proud to be a Yellow Jacket because of people like him. Dean Burgett, rest easy beside the Genesee! Meliora!
Conor McNamara, Class of 2013
“I’m more than in shock at this moment to have lost a teacher, mentor, and friend in Paul Burgett . He inspired me, guided me, and pushed me always to be better. I will miss our conversations, emails, and city club visits. The University of Rochester is better because we were able to have you for the last 50 plus years. You have impacted generations of Rochester students. I will never forget how you were there for me when Steven passed, Take your rest my friend, for your service and work has spoken for you, and you can rest assured we are better because how you have inspired us all.
Paul once said to me that my email signature quote was breathtaking. Today after hearing this news about my dear mentor, I reflected on the words of the quote and thought how fitting and appropriate the words were for the life of Paul Burgett:
"It is true--I've always loved the daring ones, Like the black young man Who tried to crash All barriers at once, wanted to swim At a white beach (in Alabama) Nude." ---Alice Walker
Paul, Alice Walker used these words to describe someone else but these words are you! You embodied so much of what this means. Your work, service, guidance, and compassion for humanity remains breathtaking! My friend, I miss you dearly already, how I wish we could share another lunch at the Rochester City Club but I’m so grateful to have shared with you during my lifetime. Your wife and family are in my prayers. You were with us at the University of Rochester “since the earth’s crust was cooling.” Today we start a new journey without you but will always strive to live up to our motto because with us, Meliora Dean Burgett, you were always better!
Our home by the Genesee will never be the same but Thank God we shared with Dr. Paul Burgett. Thanks friend for everything!
Marquis Alexander Harrison, Class of 2007 T5 08
“I remember when "Dean Burgett" came over to the River Campus from Eastman. The Eastman students were devastated, even though as VP & Dean of Students they were still in his remit. For us on the River Campus, he was a breath of fresh air. He insisted that his office be in Wilson Commons so he would be in constant touch with the students. He was always happy to see you, whoever you were. I don't know a soul who thinks of him without smiling. Today, it will be tears.
John Hutzler, Class of 1990
“Words fail to describe how important Dean Burgett was in my life. He was my mentor. His encouragement, acts of kindness and incredible warmth have had a lasting impact on my life. I first met Dean Burgett as a college sophomore in his History of Jazz course and quickly saw in him the qualities that I wanted in a mentor and role model. He demonstrated genuine caring for each student learning all of our names and referring to us by our names in class. I began meeting with him to discuss my career trajectory and he would speak of his family and other students he had known to provide me with encouragement to keep working hard. He attended my Phi Beta Kappa induction and my white coat ceremony just to congratulate me on the achievement.
Once during medical school I had just taken one of the biggest exams, USMLE Step 1, and I went out to dinner to celebrate being done. At the end of the meal the waitress came over and said the check was taken care of, that someone in the restaurant had paid the bill. Dean Burgett was in the corner of the restaurant having dinner with his spouse Kay. I went over and thanked him, he was an amazingly selfless and beautiful person.
I am deeply saddened by his passing. The world lost a bright light.
Jarrod T. Bogue '10, '15M
“There is nothing I can say that will do justice to the extraordinary life Dean Burnett lived, and the 50 years that he was a cornerstone at the University of Rochester. To say that he shaped and inspired my life and ambitions, my moral compass, my desire to be of service and to educate, along with inspiring hundreds of thousands of other students, would probably be an understatement. Thank you for guiding us all through that firey furnace, Dean Paul Burgett.
Gretchen Badami, alumnus
“I am deeply saddened by that passing of Dean Burgett. When my daughter, Allison transferred to Rochester in 2012, we attended her orientation mid- year and were greeted with a luncheon hosted by Dean Burgett. I will always remember how good he made Allison feel as he singled her out when he realized her grandmother was present(my mother, who was then in her mud-eighties). He invited them to come forward and sing the Rochester alma mater anthem with their group and told her if there was ever anything he could do for her, he was close by for her. I can’t begin to explain how great that made her feel- AND her mother, since I was sending my baby six hours away to school! We took pictures with him and remembered his peomise two years later when Allison, a member of No Jackets Required singing group needed his ear. Thank you, Dean Burgett and his family for sharing with us all such a marvelous ,caring, generous man. He will be sorely missed, but not lost, for as I said when I received a card on the “loss” of my father—- he is not lost- we know just where he is!
Nadia Saba, daughter attended the University of Rochester, 2012-2015; graduated 2015
“We saw another side of PAUL that many did not. PAUL was a member of the 98 th Army band during the 70’s. Some of the band members have been meeting once a year for many years reminising all the crazy things we did. PAUL was just one of the guys laughing joking and kidding around in comfort. Letting his hair down. Most members didn’t know Paul’s importance to the university and community. Just a fun guy with some important job at U of R. He will be missed yet remembered by many.
“To an entire generation of alumnae he will forever be Dean Burgett the great heart of the University of Rochester. I cannot think of the U of R without remembering his joyous spirit. I was just telling my family a story about him as I prepare to go back to the University to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Wilson Day. Throughout my life he often sent me letters of encouragement and support. I am so grateful to have known him and called him a friend. I am so sorry for his family.
Theresa Guenther, Class of 1990
“Dean Burgett was someone that if you only met once you would feel special immediately, you would never forget it, and you would learn something from him. I met Dean Burgett during orientation week of my freshmen year. It was the carnival day and somehow he and I went on a carnival ride together. It was one where not only was the arm of the ride going in circles, but the cabin individually rotated too. From that day on we were friends. As I went through my college experience and entered into leadership positions, he was always there, checking in everytime we saw each other. During my hardest year and hardest time, his office was a sanctuary, his hugs were all encompassing, his patience limitless. He started me on my leadership journey and when I think of the good leaders in my life - he is No.1. I have missed him all these years and regret that we did not meet again in person since I left UR. I think of the Toby Keith song - written upon the death of his friend Waymon Tisdale - "I'm not crying for you - I'm crying for me". Dean Burgett wasn't just a great Dean, or a great leader - he was the finest of human beings. Godspeed, my friend. Until we meet again, I can't wait to catch up with you.
Aneesa Majid MD MBA, Class of 1992
“Truly saddened to learn of our loss of a special individual, Paul Burgett. Paul never refused to sign any banking document I asked him to sign. Whenever I would see him, he would greet me as Dr. King-Griswold with a smile. Paul was truly a committed individual to whatever he did and always found the positive. He will be missed in Wallis Hall and the UR community. Thoughts and prayers are with Kaye and his family. God bless.
Kathy King-Griswold, Associate Treasurer, '08S and '16W
“So sad to hear of this loss. Paul was a shining light for so many. His infamous admonishments to freshman “regional treasures” were profound words to hear. RIP, old friend. :-(
Alexander Shuhan, Eastman School of Music Class of 1984
“Dean Burgett was the first to shake our hands during the doctoral commencement ceremony and every time I saw him thereafter, he greeted by saying “Hello, Doctor”. To say that he will be missed is a great understatement.
Andre McKenzie ‘13W (EdD), Associate Director, Admissions
“At some of the most crucial times in the life of students experiencing things new and foreign, Paul became the familiar and comfortable for them, a new home. He was an ear to their concerns, a bridge supporting them across new terrain and an energetic celebrant of their successes. He made thousands of students feel that they belonged. And as if that were not enough, he still found the time and energy to embrace each and every other university staff, faculty and alum he encountered. His generous ways and care helped build a sense of connection and community for us all. How much he will be missed by so many.
Jody Asbury, alumni and former Dean of Students
“Paul was an inspirational leader but even more, he was a warm, caring, friendly, open person who gave everything to make our University, and our world, ever better. While Paul used to say that he'd been at the University of Rochester since before the earth's crust cooled, we all know that his time with us was cut way too short. I am so thankful to have had the privilege of knowing him. He will be sorely missed.
Wendi Heinzelman, Dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
“So many memories. To a lot of us, Dean Burgett WAS U of R. But he was also a listening friend when a certain awkward teen needed someone to talk to about Major decisions and fighting the Freshman 50.
Isabel Hernandez-Cata, Class of 1996
“Paul Burgett left an indelible mark on me with the genuine compassion and care he showed. His impressive and yet humble personality made him so approachable and yet someone you would look up to. I can never forget him going out of his way to make my assimilation into the student life at UofR as an international student so much easier. Rest In Peace Mr. Burgett! You will never be forgotten for the difference you made in the lives of so many people you touched.
Sandeep Dudhwewala, Class of 1995
“I met Mr. Paul in 1999 he was always nice. His lunch everday was soup, a sandwich and a bottled juice. He told me to come and take some classes at the University and get a good degree. He was a good man.
Lashawnda Morrow, Dining Services
“Paul J. Burgett was an incredible advocate for diverse students across campus. He worked hard to stay informed and learn what students needed to feel included and welcomed, across race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and income. Being an administrator at such a high level is no doubt exhausting, but Burgett never lost sight of why he did what he did. He was always ready to listen and do what he could to make progress happen at any scale necessary. I felt heard by him and knew that he cared about me and students like me. I also knew that even if he couldn't do something immediately, he would remember and work to ever better the university for all. It's fitting he was honored in life and is now memorialized by the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center, a safe and welcoming space for students of all backgrounds.
Grant Gliniecki '18
“Dean Burgett made the world ever better. I will never forget during freshman orientation in 2008 when Dean Burgett took the stage in the palestra. I was in awe... this man had so much enthusiasm and joy and made me fall even more in love with the University I chose. That day Dean Burgett charged each of us in the class of 2012 to always carry the lyrics to the Genesee on us so that if at any time he stopped on us campus, we should show him our little yellow card. Still to this day, I carry that little yellow card with me every day, every where I go. As I stare at the small note he wrote me, all those years ago, I'm filled with sadness, but also remember the warmth he radiated each and every day. I will miss and remember him each and every time I return to Rochester. Dean Burgett was extraordinary and I feel so lucky to have known him.
Emily Hart '12
“Paul Burgett helped me continue living during the summer of 2016. I was dealing with common stressors as a college student, but at the time, they were just a little too much for me, and I felt uncomfortable discussing those feelings with family or friends. I decided to call Dean Burgett and ask if he could give me advice. Dean Burgett's advice changed the way I was viewing the world that summer and helped me to continue moving forward through the difficulties.
I was waiting until I graduated Physical Therapy graduate school to tell Dean Burgett how his 20 minutes during the summer of 2016 helped me to continue living and make a life for myself. I regret waiting so long. I pray the best for his close friends, family, and colleagues through this difficult period. I encourage them to continue pressing on through this difficult moment in time. It is what Dean Burgett would have wanted for us--to continue exercising faith that there will be better days and times.
Joshua K., Class of 2018
“Like many, I remember Dean Burgett as a person in the Administration who cared deeply for all students. He was always willing to give his time to a person or a group of people and help sort things out-things from life that we faced every day as young students.
We were all fond of his story of the black ball, happy that he appeared in Sept. '87 as part of the annual Freshman Show to present the Black Ball speech in music as composed by Charles Nichols '90. And I still use his phrase "small regional treasure" in interactions with my own students.
His energy was paramount. He will be truly missed, but I am happy to know that, through his efforts at sharing his personal energy, that he lives on a little bit in all of us who knew him.
Bruce Diehl, Eastman School of Music Class of 1990
“I’ll never forget Dean Burgett’s memorable speeches to welcome students to campus. I’ll never forget him standing up for Civil Rights. I feel lucky to have known him.
Audrey Dunkley Boettcher, Class of 2000
“I met Dean Burgett only on one occasion when he came to visit and talk to my community and University home, the Music Interest Floor in 2017, but I feel the heartbreak of this news like he was part of my extended family. Upon sharing with him that I played tuba, an instrument he once played in the military, he took what little time he had in that moment to get to know me on a more personal level than most staff at this University. I agree with all the things I've read about this man, and truly, to say merely that he will be missed does not do his legacy justice. The UR Music Interest Floor will be naming our practice space, whose name recently came into question, after Paul Burgett in honor of his memory, but I wish we could all do more to preserve his name.
Adam Meltzer, undergraduate musician and engineer
“Paul was one of a kind. He performed exceptionally in everything he did. He always made everyone feel valued, important and appreciated. He will be greatly missed.
Nancy Becker Guilfoyle, Eastman alumni
“It is with profound sadness that I hear of the passing of a friend and mentor. For me, there is deep personal connection to Paul. He began his successful career as a musical director at my High School, Greece Arcadia, even coming to my high school graduation party...we then coincidentally followed each other to Nazareth College of Rochester, where I again, was under his baton and within his confidence. There, he met and married my sociology professor, and once again, later, as his professional career began to blossom, to the U of R, where Paul was quickly recognized as Paul Burgett and rose quickly to become Dean. Paul was a divine, human light, and inspired all who met or knew him, to find the best within themselves. Paul had a personal, spiritual and intellectual 'music' of ideas that recognized together, that the best that we have to offer is that at our best, we create, we teach, and we help each other to realize a better, joyous human existence. My best, most profound sympathy to Kay, and all those to whom Paul Burgett was a divine inspiration.
Dr. R. Rex Denton, doctoral degree Class of 1991, School of Medicine and Dentistry
“I will never forget the impression Dr. Burgett impressed on me in my leadership training. He instilled passion and optimism, the sense that together we can make a difference, and that as individuals with unique attributes, respect for each other, and sheer gratitude, make a community.
Liss de Blieck, senior staff
“I only had the pleasure of meeting Dean Burgett once or maybe twice. The first time was when my sister was applying to Rochester. The second, at her graduation four years later. But he left such an impression on me and my family. He essentially became a legend among us. And whenever I came across a young person attending Rochester, I would ask them about Dean Burgett. I now work in academia and, in all my years and campuses, I have not come across a figure as beloved as Dean Burgett. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to his family, his friends and every single person whose life he touched.
V. Evans, daughter and sister of alumni
“Dean Burgett was the best individual. I met him my freshman year, when he spoke to a group about soul ties. I was mesmerized. After, we met and spoke about my confusion with my career and he was the very person that told me that I had “ public health butterflies” floating in my head. He was simply the greatest person to be around, and he inspired me. He is the reason I’m in public health, and after classes, meetings, and fun run- ins on campus, he became the man I wanted to be like. To encourage, challenge, and inspire. I kept in touch for years, and his absence will be missed dearly. Dean Burgett, I’m sure you have butterflies dancing all around you right now. My deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.
Danielle Joyner, alumni
“Dean Burgett, as he preferred to be called by us undergraduates, was my freshman advisor. From the first meeting I knew that I was incredibly fortunate to have access to such an important figure on campus. He would continue to meet with me throughout my time at UofR. If the door was open he would gladly spend an hour listening to me talk about my life, the challenges I was facing in a particular class, or provide advice about which classes to take the following semester. Most significantly he helped me navigate a medical leave, encouraging when it was time to come back. I’m thankful for his influence on my time as a student.
Andrew Slominski '09'
“Dr. Burgett was such an amazing individual! I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Burgett while helping with the Gateways Music Festival. As soon as he entered a room, his presence would fill the room. He could tell a joke and have everyone in stitches, but if there was a matter of importance, he always knew how to efficiently solve any issue at hand. He will be greatly missed!
David Burnett, one of the coordinators of the Gateways Music Festival
“I am deeply saddened. A great loss to the UR & Eastman community. I have known Paul Burgett since he came to ESM. As students we worked together in SA to make the school a better place. When my son attended UR he became his advisor and a mentor. Thank you Paul for your love of everyone you touched. Condolences to your family.
Paula Goldin Rothman, Eastman School of Music Class of 1967
“Paul Burgett was an incredible professor. He commanded the stage when he lectured, appeared to have almost bottomless knowledge about the subject he taught, all the while he was one of the most personable teachers I've ever met. He was the first to ever learn my name. I took History of Jazz in my first semester after my older brother urged me to do pursue something outside of biology. What a pearl, what a joy that class was. It was one of the main reasons I studied music enough to get a minor in it. I'm going to miss you Dean Burgett. Thank you for sharing your love and passion for the arts with all of us. It was a gift to be there.
Michael Yee, Class of 2011
“I first met Paul Burgett in 1983 and my life was never the same. I know that might sound like hyperbole, but if you too had met Dean Paul Burgett, my Dean, your world would have been changed as well. Paul Burgett, held many posts at the University of Rochester at the time of his passing he served as Vice President, Dean, Professor but for those of us blessed to know him, the post he considered most valuable was that of FRIEND. Tonight I am stunned and saddened to learn of his passing, so now ends the period in #UofR history that forever will be known as the Burgett Years. In Dean Burgett's eyes, everyone is wonderful, everyone has great promise and the future is very bright. I have always tried to live my life patterned after this philanthropy that I first learned from Dean Burgett. Thank you my FRIEND rest in peace forever!
Ted Hart, alumnus
“I am at a loss beyond words. A giant voice in our community has fallen silent and with that loss taken parts of our hearts with it.
“"Dean Burgett" was an advisor to University presidents, but I am most forever grateful to him as faculty advisor to one terrified 18 year old UR freshman just stepping into the "fiery furnace" in fall 1999. He exemplified all that Meliora means to me, and will be so missed in the Rochester community.
Corinne Dagen (Carpenter), Class of 2003
“Paul had a special ability to provide leadership while making you feel an equal. To both exhibit and engender both pride and humility is a rare quality indeed. A light has gone out in the university.
Jonathan Dunsby, Professor of Music Theory, Eastman School of Music
“I have so many fond memories of "Dean B" as we all affectionately knew him. I was particularly touched by his passion for music. One of my great gifts was taking a class with him my senior year. I was about to wish him happy birthday but was saddened to see this. Dean B was one of a kind and will be truly missed.
Jonathan Gillenson, Class of 2010
“This guy always had a smile and gave a kind word to everyone. Many encounters with him on campus, you always felt his love for the school and its students.
Robert Brown, former student
“Paul was a fine musician, administrator, and friend. This is a great loss to me personally, and an even greater loss to the greater-Rochester community. “Paul, we will miss you, greatly!”
Alvin Parris, Eastman School of Music, ‘69-‘73, BM, Music Education
“As my lifelong mentor, Dean Burgett enriched my life in so many ways. He will live on in the way that I teach and lead and live. I will pass his gift on to my students.
Susan Schroeder, BS'95, MS '98, PhD '02
“He knew my name! He saw me. I was a small town girl from very far away and he made me feel welcome. He would ask questions of students and was genuinely interested and respected their answers. He is Father U of R to me. He will be missed.
Erin Pierce Meyerhoff, School of Nursing Class of 1996
“With a very heavy heart I join tonight the chorus of condolences to Paul Burgett's family, friends, colleagues and the U of R community all over the world. Dean Burgett was unequivocally one of the most warm, charismatic and dynamic individuals one could ever meet. I echo the many who credit him for helping shape them into the professional they are today. From the moment I met him, at the age of 17, I was struck by both the force of his personality and the kindness of his soul. He gave widely and generously, selflessly and without expectation of return his many gifts, particularly the gift of time and opportunity. He was so professional and accomplished, yet also so openly human. He had a remarkable ability to make students feel relevant and important. His inspirational eloquence and passion were nothing short of invigorating. To say he will be missed more than it is possible to describe is an understatement, but no doubt his legacy of friendship, givi ng, kindness and pure goodness will live on. I am beyond grateful I had the opportunity to experience the transformational impact of his great leadership. Rest in peace, Dean Burgett.
Kareen Zeitounzian, Class of 1999
“It was an honor to sit in your class, and learn from you. Not only was I inspired by you, but your words also gave me the confidence to connect with my true self, and appreciate my roots. This kind words you wrote me on September 15, 2016 will forever stay with me. Your legacy will live on forever. THANK YOU!
"Dear Jeffrey: What beautiful sentiments are contained in your wonderful poem. It is strong….passionate…..speaking truth to power…..and pledging to endure. I applaud your efforts and hope that you will share this poem with friends, family, associates, and others.
Thank you for letting me know that last year’s course was truly eventful and inspiring for you. That is music to any professor’s ears. I’m glad that the idea of connecting more with your Haitian roots took hold and serves as inspiration to you now and, hopefully, forever.
I wish you all the best this year and thank you for writing. Feel free to stay in touch and let me know how and what you are doing and let me help in any way you think I can to advance your career.
All best….Dean B"
Jeffry Magloire '17
“I first met Paul as a cashier at Wilson commons, He was always respectful and pleasant to talk to, When I transferred into housekeeping , He never forgot me whenever we passed in the halls . He always had kind words, and left with a big smile on his face. He will be missed.
Annette Thomas, Environmental Services worker
“Dean Burgett imparted his great wisdom to us through his delightful stories. He inspired us, encouraged us, and empowered us through every step of our undergraduate journey. I will never forget his love for learning, his passion for music, and his bright smile. My sincere condolences to his family.
Celeste Glasgow Ribbins, Class of 1991
“Dean Burgett was one of those rare individuals who transcended the world around him. He was always considerate and thoughtful no matter the topic or conversation, and his mind worked in a way that made even the most complex problems seem simple. I miss him dearly, and my heart goes out to the tens of thousands of people who feel a great sense of loss upon hearing this news. There is no equal to Dean Burgett's style and mind, and I am forever grateful for the privilege of having known him. Rest In Peace.
Daryl Donatelli, alumnus, College and Simon School of Business
“Paul was a warm, kind, generous, uplifting human being, whose smile and humor brightened the days of all who crossed his path.
Thomas P. Slaughter, Professor of History
“Such heartbreaking news! My condolences to his wife & family...the beloved Dr. Burgett will be greatly missed!
T. Robinson, employee
“He was an inspiration. Where ever he went love and intelligence bloomed. Condolences to the family and immense gratitude for sharing him with us.
John “Ty” Dibble, alumnus
“I am devastated to hear this. Paul Burgett was at his heart an inspirational foundation to myself and so many others. His generosity and his beautiful heart for service to others are rare commodities. I will, as will so many others, miss him.
Suzanne Jones, alumna
“It is around this time of year that I would have loved to hear about how long Paul Burgett had been at UR (since the earth's crust cooled) one last time. I am heartbroken to hear that we have lost such a thoughtful, caring, and dedicated leader in our community.
Elizabeth Powell, University Bursar's Office
“Paul was one year ahead of me at ESM and immediately became a lifelong friend. I can’t believe he’s really gone. His legacy lies on the friendships he formed with peers and students. A true “Mensch!”
David Levy, alumni
“The Dean was an exemplary role model for me, a supportive mentor and an exceptional human being. I will miss him and his laughter, and his positive optimism when things are challenging. His contributions to the university and to our communities live on.
Precious Bedell, staff, student, instructor, and researcher
“The year Dr. Burgett achieved his doctorate degree, he was teaching music theory at Greece Arcadia High School. He was an amazing teacher, mentor and friend to many of my friends in 1974-75 (?). Such an inspiration to our young minds, exposing us to many music genres that we would probably never have experienced otherwise. His love of music, life and teaching inspired me to remain active in music to this day. The world was blessed to have such a great man among us. He will always be a part of my life as the memories he created live on forever.
Sue Pratt, Greece Arcadia High School
“Paul was the BEST!
Molly A. Jacob, staff
“Paul and his legacy represent the best aspects of our intellectual, passionate, compassionate University community. His gregarious nature, his thoughtfulness and his booming laugh have been part of the welcoming and supportive fabric of the University of Rochester for many decades. All of us who have been honored to know and work with Paul have been incredibly fortunate; a colleague of his caliber and strengths comes along once in a lifetime. I am trying to temper my personal sadness by looking at the campus this morning and seeing a much better world since Paul was in it.
Gloria M. Culver, School of Arts and Sciences
“Words cannot express how much Dean Burgett has meant to us and I know it must be very difficult for the entire Rochester community at this time so please do accept my condolences. He has provided endless memories in the History of Jazz class, written me a letter of recommendation, always have long and insightful conversations with me whether it be in person, through email, on Facebook, or on the phone. These are just some of the little things that make this loss even greater. Dean Burgett has meant so much to me, to you, to the University, and the greater Rochester community over the years. While it is a tremendous loss to our Rochester family, we all know that it was because of him we were meliora and it was because of him that UR is where it is today. Right now, the least I can do is to ask of you whether you know when his memorial service will be held. I currently live in Baltimore but this is so important to me I would like to fly in to Rochester and attend the celebration of Dea n Burgett's life. I really appreciate everything Dean Burgett has done for me and to the University and greater Rochester community, and I thank you for your time. I look forward to your reply and I hope everyone is coping alright in the mean time.
Max A. Cheng, Class of 2015
“My deepest condolences to Dean Paul Burgett's family, which is to say, both to those who were biologically his family and to everyone connected to the University of Rochester, because we all know he considered all of us family. I only spoke to him a few times during my years as a student but his booming voice and kind presence were indelibly part of being a Rochester student.
I have been a professor at the University of Michigan for many years now and for this vantage point, I appreciate how Paul Burgett gave me the best possible model for being an academic citizen years before I even knew I needed it.
He made reaching out and respecting every student, every staff member, every faculty member look easy and natural because he truly and generously valued and loved the university as a space for learning, exploration, and connecting students to the world. He knew that engaging students was not just about addressing their specific course concerns but about seeing them as whole people who were also citizens of his beloved Rochester. Not every university has a Dean Burgett but I'm deeply grateful that UR did. I know I am a better professor because of his example.
Sheila C. Murphy, Class of 1996
“My heart goes out to his family, friends and all those who knew and loved him. One of my earliest memories of the University involves Dean Burgett speaking to my freshman class. He joked about being at UR since the Earth’s crust began cooling. In my time there, this almost began to seem true in that it was hard to imagine a University of Rochester experience that didn’t involve Dean Burgett. He would talk about the University acting in loco parentis, but he took that to the next level in how he cared for all of us. I have no idea how he and Bev did it, but he always seemed to find time to meet with a student who needed him. He put students first in a way that every Dean of Students should. I feel fortunate to have known this great man who was the national treasure that he so kindly referred to us as. I only wish I could see him one more time to receive a big bear hug, catch up and then have him lead a group of us in singing The Genesee.
Doug Benson, Class of 1997
“I met Dean Burgett as a freshman in the School of Arts and Sciences. Obvious on the first meeting was his approachable, caring, and passionate presence which carried over to his famous "Fiery Furnace" and then to two music classes I took with him. Dean Burgett always greeted with a hug and was never too busy to stop and talk. His depth of knowledge and authenticity has stuck with me through the years. My heart is heavy on this day knowing that Rochester has lost one of its greats.
Jennifer Muniak, Class of 2006, Medicine Residency '13, Current Faculty at University of Rochester Medical Center
“Can U of R exist without Dean Burgett? I'm not sure. He truly was the face and the voice of the school. There's no way he could have known each and every one of us as individuals, and yet it always seemed that way. What a loss for our community.
Christy (Van Dusen) Fennessy, Class of 1995
“How do you say goodbye to a man that was instrumental in shaping your future and helped you grow into the person you are today? Dean Paul Burgett called me Dr. Hoffman, just so I could get used to hearing that name, even before I was committed to going to medical school. I cried on his shoulder as he listened and supported me through my battle with depression. We shared countless stories about what it was like to be a “recovering Catholic” (his spot-on term). He embraced me with that bear hug on my graduation day and knew I would be successful and fulfilled even though I did not know that to be true. He visited me in Orlando As I took a break from college before medical school and treated me to my first calamari. He welcomed me back on campus for my fifth, tenth, and fifteenth reunions and would pick up he left off, building me up and relighting that spirit in me. He believed in me wholly. I would not be the person, the physician, the strong woman I am tod ay without his presence in my life. Rest In Peace my dear friend, mentor, and colleague. You will be missed beyond measure.
Dr. Michelle Hoffman, Class of 1998
“This is a sad day for Gateways Music Festival, Eastman School of Music, the University of Rochester and the world. Paul's life made a difference, and his many, many contributions will be felt and enjoyed for generations to come.
Paul’s dedication and belief in the mission of Gateways made the organization stronger – one that, as he would say, “is on the move.” Gateways spoke to Paul’s soul because he lived the experience of our Gateways musicians. He also believed in the power of the music he loved to change and uplift communities because he saw it in his own community growing up in St. Louis.
Paul's tireless efforts to strengthen Gateways – board governance, fundraising, staffing, systems and more – will ensure that the organization can continue building and growing upon a solid foundation. Because of Paul’s efforts, Gateways is stronger and better.
Personally, I am immeasurably indebted to Paul for his friendship, mentorship and leadership of Gateways. Mere words are insufficient to express how much I will miss our hours-long conversations about Gateways, classical music, the world and everything else under the sun.
Lee Koonce, President & Artistic Director, Gateways Music Festival
Senior Advisor to the Dean, Eastman School of Music
“Paul was a true Gentleman. One of the nicest people I've ever met. He will be sorely missed.
Jeff Foster, staff
“I have known Paul since our days at Eastman School of Music and I have appreciated the quality and integrity with which he approached the positions he assumed throughout his career. His passing is devastating, yet his presence among us was indelible. His influence on the people and institutions he touched is irreplaceable. He remains a remarkable figure in our history.
Jay Stetzer, Eastman alumnus, ALP teacher
“I am heartbroken to hear of Paul's passing. What a wonderful man and what a loss at a time when we need leaders like Paul more than ever. Rest in Peace Paul. My sincerest condolences to his family.
Debra Haring, Assistant Dean Grants and Contracts, School of Arts and Sciences
“Dean Burgett carried so many students through challenging times, and brightened the lives of countless people in the UR Community. Dynamic, caring, and intelligent--he represented the very best of this University.
Jim Newton, alumnus
“When I joined the university Paul was the Dean of Students. He went on to become Vice President but in our minds Paul remains officially or unofficially The Dean of Students. He cared. I just saw him couple of weeks ago in a restaurant on Park Avenue, smiling and waiving hello. Rochester will miss Paul.
Jacob Jorne, professor
“RIP Paul Burgett, thank you for the legacy. My condolences to the Burgett family.
Yawo Alphonse Siatitse '20
“I talked with Paul many a days, I believe he was an integral part of what the university stood for. He will be missed.
Steve Riorden, UPS driver for University of Rochester
“Paul Burgett was a dear friend to the Arnett Branch Library community, located in SW Rochester NY. He was a key person in the founding of 19th Ward Spelling Bee partnership between the University of Rochester, Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity at UR, the Rochester City School District, the 19th Ward Community Association, and the Arnett Branch Library. This annual spelling bee,which takes place at the University of Rochester, helps young students (who practice for months before the contest) generate interest in academic pursuits, and develop good studying skills. It has also resulted in many children earning their first scholarships. Paul's contributions to this project is one more example of the kindness he has performed for our community.
Bruce Tehan, manager of the Arnett Branch Library
“First met Paul Burgett when I arrived at Eastman to do graduate work in 1978. He was Dean of Students. Over the next 40 years we became good friends and worked as colleagues in several cultural endeavors in Rochester, including the Gateways Festival, the Hochstein School, and the RPO, among others. I always found him to be supportive and thoughtful, with great intelligence, personality and humor. Paul was always willing to lend a hand to all. The Rochester community owes him a debt of gratitude. He will be missed by all who had the good fortune to know him, and I will miss a great friend.
Carl Atkins, graduate of Eastman School of Music, ESM and River Campus faculty
“I remember when I first joined the University and worked in Wallis Hall ... Dean Burgett was one of the friendly faces that I first encountered ... he had a way that made you feel welcomed right away by his joyful presence. He could remember a name easily and always said good morning or afternoon and had a little song to sing along the way ... he will be missed greatly by many and remembered always in the hearts of all that knew him! May peace be with him and his family...
Katherine Chapman, administrative assistant
“A deep loss, felt by all as a warm soul passes.
“We share our condolences with the University, family, and loved ones of Dr. Paul Burgett.
We were honored to have Dr. Burgett serve as an Honorary Director for Rochester Global Connections since 2016. We will always remember him for his passion for cultural exchange, international education, and his support and compassion for international students at University of Rochester.
Cecelia Hencke, Global Connections
“I will miss hearing his wonderful laugh and seeing his friendly and welcoming face around Wallis Hall. He will be greatly missed.
Ruth Levenkron, staff
“Paul Burgett has left a huge legacy and will be dearly missed.
Jane Tuttle, Professor Emeritus School of Nursing, alumna
“It was with great sorrow that I heard that Paul had passed away this week after a brief illness. I will always remember Paul leading us in the singing of Genesee.
Mark Ain, University Trustee
“I’m so saddened to hear this news. I waited on Paul and his wife where I work at the Charbroil family restaurant. They were regulars there. We became friends he was one of my favorite people. He will be greatly missed by myself and our crew there. Such a great guy. I used to call him speed racer because he always came in fast and had his lunch or dinner and then on the go again a very busy man. RIP my friend you will be in my thoughts and prayers every day. ... Heaven has received another Angel.
“I met Paul when he was a board member of the Genesee Country Museum and I was on staff there. He was a lion. A brilliant, kind, gentle, generous lion. We are all poorer without him.
Todd Butler, friend and admirer
“Fighting back tears as I type this...Dean Burgett was a true gem in this world. My heart aches knowing he has died. I remember meeting him as a freshman in awe of his brilliance, I said to myself, "I need to get to know this man". And that's exactly what I did. In my 4 years at the U of R he was a mentor, supporter and father figure. When I became an RA every year I'd invite him to speak to my hall and we'd have a big pizza party. He made an effort to learn each students' name. He had a special gift of making you feel that you matter and were important in the world.
My favorite memory of Dean Burgett was in my senior year. I told him I had decided to go to grad school and he graciously offered to write me a recommendation letter. So in the spring semester when I was deciding on which school to go to, we set up a meeting together to discuss the decision. And as I told him my fears and insecurities about pursuing a graduate degree, he sat me down and began to list percentages and the percents would get smaller and smaller as he'd go on. I looked at him weird and asked, "what are you doing Dean Burgett". He simply said, "the percentages represent the number of people from your neighborhood that graduate high school, then college, then grad school etc. He said Dr. Baudin you beat so many odds. Don't question what's next, just know you belong". That moment like so many others displays how generous of a man he was.
My prayer for all that were so blessed to have known him, is to live a life that honors his memory.
RIP Dean Burgett.
Vicky Baudin, Class of 2012
“I was shocked and saddened to hear this news.
My senior year at the U of R, I had one elective spot open. As a neuroscience major, I rarely had a chance to take a class "just for fun". I knew immediately which class I wanted to take as that year, Dean Burgett was was offering his "Musical Adventures" course. That semester, I learned a little about music and a lot about life. Every class, I was in awe of his passion and was completely fascinated by his stories...all shared from behind his music stand that he lectured from. We did some crazy things like form a gospel choir to perform in the middle of Wilson Commons at lunchtime, make musical instruments out of PVC, and compose a piece to be performed using only "your carcass". His energy was infectious and I loved every minute of it! He called all of us "doc", not because we were doctors but because "we would be someday." When I crossed the stage at my PhD graduation, Dean Burgett was there to read off our names. As I handed him my index card, I sad "Dean Burgett, you can call me doc now." His face lit up and with the biggest grin he proudly welcomed me to cross that stage.
I often think back to his words of wisdom and I am very grateful that he was part of that fiery furnace which molded me into the person I've become. When things seem impossible, his booming voice rings in my head "you are a University of Rochester graduate, you will not fall off the precipice!'
You will be missed, Dean Burgett. I want to be you when I grow up!
Nicole Boschi, BS 2007, MS 2010, PhD 2014
“Dean Burgett was not only a dean and mentor to me, he was first a friend, classmate, and comrade of my father's. After 1979, the two fell out of touch, only to meet again at parents' orientation for incoming freshmen.
There was no hesitation. In the middle of the milling crowd of nervous parents, Dean Burgett and my father halted, saluted each other, and fell onto each other, laughing, pounding each other on the back. Though my father would deny it, there were tears shed that day. In those moments, a friendship of a lifetime was rekindled.
I was privileged to call him Dean, my father was privileged to call him a friend. Our family will miss him.
Sara Courtney, Class of 2000
“I have no words that can measure my love for Paul or my grief re his passing. I was an Eastman senior during his first season as Dean, and ran into each other the first time while I was working at the Sibley Library front check out desk one evening and he wanted to take out some books. We immediately cracked each other up, realized we shared the same birth date (8.22 ironically the same date as his passing) and became fast friends. He has always shown me his love and support over these decades and our friendship was precious to me.
Diana Basso, Eastman School of Music Class of 1982,
flutist and friend of Paul
“My heart is so heavy today to learn of the passing of Dean Paul Burgett, an absolutely extraordinary man and profound influence on my life and countless others. As a junior in high school, I remember attending a recruitment talk in Boston he gave for the University of Rochester, where he asked us if we were willing to "follow our bliss," and referred to us as "regional treasures." I thought – wow, this is a man who rejects the idea that we should follow a cookie-cutter model through our schooling, and that just maybe each one of us had something unique and important to offer.
He was a violist and graduate of the Eastman School, who later became Dean of Eastman, and when I lucked out enough to score him as my undergraduate advisor at the U of R, we had many chats in his office about Monk and Mingus. During my sophomore year, he encouraged me to pursue a transfer to Eastman, and he ended up having more influence on my undergraduate path, and my decision to embrace wholeheartedly a career in the arts, than anyone.
Dean Burgett was one of the most giving, positive, and enthusiastic persons I ever knew in my life, and I'm regretting today that I didn't know that he was sick – I certainly would have told him these things. Simply put, this man *was* the U of R.
Rest easy, Dean Burgett – your work lives on in everyone lucky enough to have known you.
Jason McCool, Eastman School of Music '97 (Take 5 '98), B.Mus. in Jazz Trumpet Performance
“Dean B - can I get an E flat?
My heart is heavy, but I think it’s because it’s so full of warm memories, hearty laughs, wise compassion, and bold character you shared with me and so many others over your 72 years on this Earth. You had the magic that made our ideas and passions feel important and treasured; you inspired so many journeys.
It’s an honor to have known you, Dean Burgett.
Katherine Wegman, ‘15, ‘19M
“With Paul's passing our city has lost not only a thoughtful and important contributor to our cultural life and community spirit, but also a wonderful example of sensitivity toward and caring for others and an exemplary educator and music historian. He made all who knew him better for the experience.
G. Rollie Adams, president and CEO emeritus, Strong National Museum of Play
“My husband Steve Laitz, daughter Madeleine Laitz, and I are devastated by this sad news. Paul Burgett was a fixture in our lives from our graduate school years through our daughter's recent undergraduate degree. He supported and encouraged us all three, and his warmth, grace and humor will never be forgotten. How lucky we were to know him. I'm certain everyone whose path he crossed feels the same. Rest in peace, Paul, and know that you will be forever loved and cherished.
Anne-Marie Reynolds, Eastman School of Music PhD
“Paul was a wonderful and, I would say, magical individual who brought joy to all with whom he interacted. I met Paul more than thirty years ago, and would enjoy seeing him occasionally on Sunday mornings at the South Wedge Diner where he was the purveyor of joy and good humor. The Boar's Head dinner may have had moments of which we would be less proud, but it was Paul and his ability to lead all of the attendees in Frosty the Snowman that really marked the joy of the Holiday season. His personal sensitivity to people's needs and his love for the university were hallmarks of "Meliora". I shall miss my friend and I mourn our collective loss.
Rich Eisenberg, Professor Emeritus and Professor (Research) of Chemistry
“I was very sorry to learn of the passing of Dean Paul Burgett. In a brief encounter, he had a transformative impact on my life. I had just started working at the UR Office of Admissions in 2007 when I met Dean Burgett in the hallway. Hearing that I was new, he invited me to meet with him and spent over an hour getting to know me, asking me about my long term plans. Even though I had only just started my job, he told me, "You need to get a PhD, you're too smart to stay where you are." This conversation planted the seed that ultimately inspired me to get a PhD in Sociology at Yale where I work now as the Executive Director of Yale's Education Studies program. I am grateful to Dean Burgett for helping me on my way. His joy for life and the way he went out of his way to support those around him is an inspiration that I aspire to.
Mira Debs, former Assistant Director of Admissions
“Nothing that I could write here would come close to being as eloquent or heartfelt as the words Dean Burgett himself could come up with. He was a UR fixture, someone I would still ask about many years post-graduation. His “fiery furnace” speech resonated so much with me all 4 years that I rearranged my recording schedule with Vocal Point to attend his final speech to our class, the class of 2004, on a hot day in Strong. I have so many fond memories of his beautiful booming singing voice at every Boar’s Head I attended. He will be sorely missed.
Genevieve Chawluk '04
“Dean Burgett WAS the UR for the last 50 years. No individual was more important to the University Community, and specifically, to the students as he was. My favorite class at the UR to this day remains his class on jazz and blues. Meliora Weekend this year will have a different tone without his presence.
Mike Zimmerman '93
“Dean Burgett spoke with our students many times. Every time he ended with, “If not you, then who?”. I would see him around the community and shout it out. What a privilege to have known him, even if indirectly. Thank you for the stories of UR. Thank you for showing our youth that a person could be a scholar, an academic, a classical musician, a university leader, and a person of color.
Meghan Wagner, Hillside Work- Scholarship Connection
“We have all lost someone very important. Paul was the most positive person I have ever met and you could not interact with him without his contagious optimism rubbing off on you. Just seeing him would necessitate a smile on all of our faces. Our University and this community are so much better off because of Paul Burgett.
Scott Rasmussen, Golisano Children's Hospital Advancement
“Like so many others in the University extended family, I feel a great sense of loss but a sense of gratitude for having known Paul Burgett. Paul was my colleague and friend in Central Administration for 30 years. Paul and I spent countless hours in his office or mine seeking each other's advice, trying to solve a problem, debriefing after a meeting or sometimes just laughing. Paul's many talents, accomplishments and contributions to the University are well known. Among Paul's legendary qualities that I especially valued was his sense of humor, a quality that would put people at ease and make it fun to meet with him.
I will always remember Paul's pronouncement: “And the truth shall make you laugh.” Over the years, there have been various individuals that could be legitimately called the head of our University; Paul Burgett has been its heart.
Ron Paprocki, retired Senior Vice President and CFO
“It is always sad news when one hears of the passing of greatness. Such was it with Paul. Paul, although physically tall, was actually larger than life in so many ways. He could dominate a room with his presenceâ€”and it was the presence of a person who exuded warmth and caring. Paul could be firm, but it was always in the context of wanting the best for those around him. I was privileged to work with Paul for eleven years at the University, and even more privileged to have had the opportunity to have a number of conversations with him, as colleague and as friend. The U of R, indeed all of the greater Rochester community--he loved and improved both--will be a lesser place without Paul.
Tom Jackson, President Emeritus and University Professor
“Dean Burgett was my favorite professor as an undergrad. Before I had the pleasure of taking History of Jazz with this brilliant man, I didn’t even think I liked jazz music. Now it’s one of my favorite styles of music, thanks to him. A tragic loss, but I am thankful and honored to have known him. You will be missed, Dean Burgett.
Travis Hughes, alumnus
“Paul has always been one of the warmest, most charismatic, most caring individuals I've ever had the honor to interact with. His insight, passion, poise, and dedication is something I will always strive to achieve. His impact will live on for many, many years to come. I'm so shocked and saddened by this news. Paul always seemed like one of those forces of nature that will always be around; though, I suppose, despite his earthly departure, he'll still be around and still be with us. I'm so grateful to have had many opportunities to interact with him both as a student and as an alumni leader. Let us all come together to continue his momentum and legacy.
Brad Orego '10'
“To the family of Dean Burgett, thank you for sharing him with us all. He led us through the “fiery furnace” of undergrad orientation and so much more. Such an inspirational leader and wonderful person. God bless and comfort you in your loss.
Liz Hill, alumni
“Dean Burgett was an incredibly open, approachable, and genuine person. He is gone too soon and will be missed!!
David Ditch, alumni
“On behalf of the Joseph Avenue Arts and Culture Alliance, our heartfelt sympathy to Paul's family. He was our friend as he was to so many with whom he came in contact during his amazingly productive life -- a gentleman and a gentle man, a scholar, a humanist and an insightful human being. Paul, we will miss you.
Neil R. Scheier, M.D., medical school faculty, and President, Joseph Avenue Arts and Culture Allaince
“Paul was in the class just behind me but, since Itransfered to ESM as a sophomore, I went thru freshman orientation with Class of ‘68 and was good friends with most of that class as well. Paul was a wonderful man: a real “people person”, he could make friends with anyone. Quite unexpectedly, I ran into him in New York City three years ago, in the Garden Court of the Frick Collection. Even after almost 50 years, he recognized me immediately and we had a long “catch-up chat”. Just a wonderful man who influenced so man people. A huge loss!
Marilyn Drennan Brus, Eastman School of Music Class of ‘67.
“I still remember hearing Dean Burgett speak at the interview weekend for the Renaissance scholarship candidates, and at my NSCS induction ceremony. He had such a wonderful presence as a speaker--animated and wise and funny. It was so vividly clear from every interaction with him and every speech he gave just how much he valued life and his time as a student at Eastman, how much wisdom and knowledge he had to share, and how much he deeply cared for the students at this university. I never got to take his class when I was a student and always kind of hoped I'd be able to return as a professor and sit in on it. We will be blessed if the administrators who follow him are half as devoted to the students and the flourishing of the community as he has been for so many years. Rest in peace, Dean Burgett. You will be sorely missed.
Rachel Stuart '14
“Dean Burgett had an incredible presence and a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. We are so lucky for all the years he shared these gifts with our University of Rochester community. Being his student was an experience and an honor that has never left me.
Christina Brasavage, alumni
“Dean Burgett was an inspiring and compassionate gentleman. I remember how he sat all the freshman down in his office during orientation and taught us the basics of time management - lessons I still hold dear to this day. A gifted mentor and all around wonderful person, he will be missed!
Gilya Hodos, Eastman School of Music 1987
“I was honored to be part of a group with Paul that sat together for dinner each night at Eastman. He was always a gentleman and good friend. I remember visiting Eastman several years after graduation. Paul was Dean of Students at the time. We spent several hours together, with him telling me about all of the positive changes as well as our reminiscing of our time together. More recently we resumed our connection through email and Facebook. I had received an honor as I was retiring from my position of Dean of Fine Arts and Communication at one of the State Universities in Texas. Paul heard about the award and his was one of the first acknowledgments that I received. I can't say how much that meant to me.
Russ Schultz, Eastman School of Music graduate
“Dr. Paul Burgett became a lifelong friend and mentor when he hired me to join the staff of the Office of Minority Student Affairs. He was then Dean of Students. He put his trust and confidence in me, and he encouraged me to continue to advance. I owe the trajectory of my career to him. Like so many others, I felt special in his presence. He lifted spirits, inspired and motivated all. His impeccable ethical standards remain goals for all of us. I was hoping to see him in June, but he was too sick then. My heart is broken, I can't stop my tears. But I'm so grateful that such a giant of a man was with us for so long. He was the epitome of the ideals of the University of Rochester. I miss him. May his dear spirit soar in glory.
Linda Baha'i, alumna and former employee
“Paul Burgett will be fondly remembered as an engaged neighbor by members of the 19th Ward Community. He kindly hosted Pancake Breakfasts at the U of R to reciprocate the hospitality of the residents involved in the 19th Ward Bridge Dinners in which students were invited into their homes.
Mary Dahl Maher, alumni
“I was shocked to hear the news of Dean Burgett's passing. There are some people who we seem to defy age, who leave you with the impression that they will live forever. Dean Burgett was one of those people.
My interactions with him were limited to the grand lectures he gave to the incoming class. I remember fondly being packed into the off campus church at the foot of the quad and listening to his optimistic, soaring voice describe what four years of a college education at UR would look like. I think from the moment he took the podium and smiled at the assembled, pimpled masses he had the crowd. He put a warm voice and a kind face to what can often feel like a cold academic bureaucracy.
I have no doubt that he lived up to his reputation as an advocate for students and very likely championed many of the stellar programs that UR provided at the time, including Take 5.
I wish his family and friends my deepest condolences on his passing. I'm not sure that it will be possible to replace him.
Joshua Pincus, Class of 1999
“Paul was one of the first people who I met when I began my doctoral studies at the Eastman School. A prince of a gentleman who displayed grace and dignity in his dealings with anyone who knew him. He was very gracious in welcoming me to the Eastman community. Deepest sympathies to his family.
Brian D. Rozen, doctorate from the Eastman School of Music
“ My deepest condolencese and may you have an easy time with remembering Paul. People like him enrich our lives.
Mariana Grinblat, Class of 1967 and volunteer with international students
“The last time I met with Dean Burgett was a month before graduation. I came into his office to chat a cappella. After saying I was in the Ramblers to his secretary, I heard his thundering "OOH One of the rambler boys! Come in, come in!" He never had any extra time in his 54 years at the University of Rochester, but he gave it anyway.
Dean Burgett was there in 1998 when the Midnight Ramblers gave their first official performance as a group. Since then, he was always supportive of us as we made our way into the community. No one embodied all the things Rochester stands for like him. He made it a better place, and we are all better to have known him.
I'll be sure to sing the Genesee a little bit louder - and faster, especially in the third verse - now.
Joshua McGough '17'
“Paul was respected as a leading person on our campus University. I remember him and want to offer my sincere sympathy to the whole family.
Nancy O'Neil, retired ANP, University Health Service
“Paul Burgett was the “We” in “We R UR”. I will never forget his stirring orientation lecture during which he emphatically exclaimed: “Look to your left. Look to your right. Four years from now, in what will go by in the blink of an eye, all three of you will be walking together at Commencement from the University of Rochester.”
Jeremy Kriegel, Class os 1992
“My family and I always seemed to run into Paul and Kay when we were out for breakfast. In the South Wedge, Public Market, and very frequently Wegmans. His encouragement & compassion the past 30 years have meant a great deal to me and my family. RIP Dear sweet man. We will miss that wounderful laugh.
Kathleen George, friend
“Dean Burgett was a wonderful person and an incredibly accessible leader. His efforts to connect with students were always above and beyond. I am very sad to hear about his passing and I pray for his family during this time.
Dave Pascoe '05
“Dean Burgett was truly a treasure to the U of R community. You always knew that his kindness and optimism were from the heart. He always had time for the students, to hear our troubles. It was that way when his office was in Wilson Commons, and it was true when he moved to Wallis Hall. For those who were lucky enough to have heard his "Fiery Furnace" speech, it really did make you feel that things would be alright. We'll miss you Dean Burgett. Thank you for being a friend and inspiration.
Mengzhu Wang, Class of 2003, MBA 2009, Undergraduate SA President - 2000-2001
“Truly an amazing man. My condolences to his family. Muchos besos y abrazos.
Delia Cruz Nochebuena, alumni
“I am so saddened to learn of the passing of Dean Burgett. I had the privilege of working with him as a young professional - just six months or so after graduating from the UR back in 1986. I was employed as a paralegal at a local firm and had expressed to a partner there an interest in attending law school. The partner was handling a case for the University and cheerfully sent me off - with a list of questions - to interview Dean Burgett. I was nervous and uncertain - never having met with a client before. Dean Burgett was kind and patient and supportive throughout. So much so that I have never forgotten that experience. He definitely helped to set me on a path to what has become a long and challenging legal career - I am now Chief IP Counsel and Associate General Counsel for a Fortune 500 Company. His passion for learning and for people was apparent in even the ordinary moments. I will always remember him for making "just another" hour of his day such an extraordinary hour of mine. He will be sorely missed.
Heidi Martinez, alumna, former employee, former outside counsel
“What a huge loss for the UR community. I remember Dean Burgett when he was the associate dean at Eastman in the mid 80s. He helped me through a fairly tumultuous time in my life. Had it not been for him, I am sure I would be living a much different life today. He will forever be in my heart and is the cornerstone of my successes.
Luis Rosario-McCabe, Eastman School of Music 1986; School of Nursing 1993, 1995, 2015, 2017
“Dean Burgett was my first student dean when I arrived as a transfer student at Eastman in 1981. He showed deep respect for the student as an individual aspiring professional. We had wonderful conversations about all things Eastman, all the way to these past couple years. He was thoughtful and knowledgeable.. Eastman and the U of R are blessed to have had such a fine man in our midst.
John Hunter, B Mus '84, M Mus '97
“Dr. Burgett’s “fiery furnace” speech left me in awe and solidified my decision to come to University of Rochester.
Gary Deutsch '03
“The thing about the ones we love is that we tend to think that there's more time. That there will a tomorrow. That we can make that call another time.
While Dean Burgett was not a family member by blood, he held that place in my heart.
Like most U of R students, my first interaction with Dean Burgett was when he taught my freshmen class the alma mater at our orientation. He had attended the music college at U of R, Eastman School. His rich baritone anchored us to the fields beside the Genessee River and connected us with the history of the place. A place where Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony were both celebrated. Even though he was an administrator, he taught an African-American music history class. He told us then that he'd intentionally set up his office in the student center so that he'd be available to us any time.
I took advantage of his invitation often. (Probably more than he wanted to see me.) I met his assistant Bev, another amazing person, who stood by him throughout his career. Our meetings were just times to chat about music and art and travel. When I made occasional trips to campus, I visited him. When he became Vice President, he changed offices but still made time for students.
He helped me with career choice, wrote recommendations for me, and believed that I would succeed.
Dean Burgett was University of Rochester for me.
Last fall, my son was looking at University of Rochester too. I contacted Dean Burgett again, and, despite his busy schedule, he made time to give Ethan one of his trademark bear-like hugs. U of R wasn't Ethan's first choice but he said that if he went, V.P. Burgett would be the main reason.
I never properly thanked Paul for all the time, music, and positive energy he gave to me, gave to others, and gave to an institution he loved. He was a voice for all the students but was especially supportive of the Black Student Union and others. I assumed I might see him at my 25th reunion this fall. Now, I can't believe I'll never get one of those hugs again.
Rest in peace, Paul. You left too soon.
Anna E Jordan, alumna
“I am so sad to hear this news. I had no idea how lucky I was when Dean Burgett was my assigned mentor as a freshman in 2001. We continued to meet regularly until I graduated in 2005. Not only did he have an impact on my early career as I left the University, but we were able to reconnect several years ago at an alumni event, and I was amazed that he even remembered me. His passion, insight, inspiration, and incredible light are things I will carry with me the rest of my life. Rest in power.
Kat (Wilcox) McGlynn, alumna
“Paul Burgett was a mentor and a friend. I remember being in his office for a meeting and feeling immediately at ease and being treated not as a student but as an equal. He listened to our thoughts and ideas and help implement changes that the student body suggested to him. His gentle nature and smile brought such peace and joy to a room. He is one of my fondest memories (and there are many fond memories) and he will be missed by the alumni, current students and staff and those who never had the honor and pleasure of experiencing U of R with him there.
Shana Rosenblatt, Class of 1995
“In the 1970's,Paul and I were members of a self-formed study group called The Eastman Five. We worked together for many months preparing for our doctoral exams in French, German, our written exams, and our orals. The five of us actually sat together while taking all the written parts of the exams. We would each prepare a paper for our frequent study sessions to share with the others, and we could all rely on each other to do the job well. One of my favorite memories of Paul was a day that he was presenting his paper on opera to us which included Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. Paul played us a recording of parts of the opera including the famous "Vesti la giubba" which Paul loudly sang out the window in his resonant baritone voice along with the record. I think of him to this day when I hear this aria! I treasure the times with him in our youth, and I admire all that he has accomplished in the years since. His is truly a life well lived.
Susan Dersnah Fee, Eastman Alumna (MA 1972, PhD 1975)
“Dean Burgett was a remarkable man who was friendly and humble. Dean Burgett took time out of his very busy schedule to perform in a video for my video production class. He was the epitome of class and positivity. He will be missed but not forgotten.
Ben Greenberg, Class of 1999
“To have fond memories of Rochester, is to have fond memories of Dean Burgett. I never had him as a teacher or advisor; those classmates are by far the luckiest, as they could see him in his element--talking about music. But Dean Burgett was integral in every student's lives because of how he spoke to you. No formality, no pretense-- he helped me see what it means to be part of the University of Rochester; where meliora was truly in his soul. I hope the University takes the time to appreciate how Dean Burgett and Rochester have been deeply intertwined, especially for undergraduates.
Rod Bugarin, Class of 1996
“Paul Burgett arrived at Eastman as a freshman when I was a junior. He was a gifted violinist, for sure, but at Eastman he discovered other gifts that became his trademark during his highly influential life. The first was a gift for language. His use of English was eloquent, colorful, expressive, philosophical, inspiring, and often funny. The second was a gift of non-verbal communication. Paul had an uncanny knack for knowing when a colleague or student needed support and he offered that support with consummate generosity. When you were talking with Paul, you were the center of attention; he made you feel as though you were the most important person in the world and devoted his time, thought, and energy to helping you solve a problem, discuss an issue, or just have a moment of cheer. His sudden death has sent tremors throughout the U of R community, which will never be quite the same without him. We miss you, Paul, and your legacy will stay with us and future Yellowjackets.
Michael Webster, alumnus and former part-time associate professor of clarinet at Eastman
“Words cannot express what an incredible mentor Dean Burgett has been to me and so many UR students. I will always remember his spirited and lighthearted presence. With the biggest smile and the most excited tone, Dean Burgett encouraged students to make the most of their education. He also served as a powerful example for living life to the fullest. Long after I graduated, Dean Burgett kept in touch and showed support as I updated him on my post-graduate course. It was apparent that Dean Burgett took great satisfaction in seeing his students utilize their education and advance their careers. He also shared a love for the arts and travel that inspired students to create and explore. I will always admire Dean Burgett and will be forever grateful for his role in my education and personal growth. Like no one else, Dean Burgett embodied the Meliora spirit.
Brittany Crowley, alumna
“I had limited interactions with Dean Burgett compared to some others I'm sure but he was a great and inspiring man, he gave me some great advice once, and he was a friend to my late dear friend Hiram Watkins at the U of R and I am very sorry to hear of Dean Burgett's passing.
Chris Agnew, alumni
“Thank you Dean Burgett for all that you did for the U of R and it's community. I fondly recall your friendly smile that always greeted us when we saw you on campus. Rest In Peace.
Anne Zylick, Class of 1999
“Paul remembered my daughter and me, dating back to his time as a music teacher in Greece. Over the years he was always pleased and sincerely interested in our lives. I was delighted that he became a vice-president at the U of R. The temperature of the world goes down with his passing.
Barbara Outterson, alumna
“When my (future) wife was attending Nazareth College more than 40 years ago she mentioned a handsome young professor who taught her music class. I met Paul Burgett a little while later and understood what the fascination was all about. His enthusiasm was infectious, and his energy was boundless. After Paul moved to the University of Rochester, we were able to work together as the Sector 4 Community Development Corp was formed, and Paul represented the University as a board member.
We worked together for many years as the revitalization of Brooks Landing was conceived, planned and implemented. Our paths continued to connect as I served on City Council, consulted with the University for a while, and as he helped out with the annual 19th Ward Spelling Bee.
His concern for each of as human beings was always evident by his steady eye contact, ready smile, hearty laugh and booming voice. I appreciated his intense listening to concerns, and his wise counsel as issues were discussed. He will be greatly missed in our community.
Dana K. Miller, Simon School alumni, Class of 1989
“Saddened to learn of the passing of Dean Paul Burgett, who embodied all that a university aspires to be. As irrational as it is, he was the kind of person many people assumed would always be there -- so indelibly ingrained in the institution that it's unimaginable to conceive of the University of Rochester without him. As a young student leader, he was generous with his time and advice and always greeted me by name and a warm smile at events or when we passed each other on campus. As an alumnus, when I was a broke grad student in Chicago, I remember attending an alumni event and lamenting to him how I felt guilty not having the means to donate at the time. He assured me that at that point in my life, I was doing as much as could be expected of me simply by showing up and that I would be able to contribute in the future as resources allowed. He was a remarkable soul and will be sorely missed.
Ari Stillman, Class of 2008
“It was my privilege to have been able to offer Paul his first UR appointment as dean of students at the Eastman School. His service in that role was exemplary in every way, playing a major role, as he did, in planning and executing the Philharmonia tour under David Effron of January 1983 with Joseph Schwantner's "New Morning for the World," starring Willie Stargell, and George Walker's "Eastman Overture." Paul was ever a close friend, a man of integrity, high intelligence, and great sensitivity to the problematic past and to the promising future of our great country.
Robert Freeman, Eastman School director, 1972-96
“Even in a brief meeting, how could you not have fallen in love with this man? He had a warmth, vitality, passion, humanity, and vision of excellence that all were somehow transmitted in the (seemingly) smallest meetings. A handshake, a thoughtful question, a moment's concentration and inquiry... he somehow embodied the argument that every person and every moment is important and potentially joyous.
I can only imagine what taking a class with him or working on a project with him was like if he could make you feel such an immediate sense of belonging and importance in a conversation at a cocktail party. Thank you, Dr. Burgett, for your years of service to U of R and to all of those around you at any time. Rest in Power.
Chris Cromwell, alumnus
“My heart aches with this news and I send my condolences to Dean Burgett's family and the UR community. One of the best memories was hanging out at the head table during Boar's Head dinner, Dean Burgett always knew how to liven up a room! My first memory of Dean Burgett was during freshman orientation, when we all were gathered in Hubbell auditorium sitting there as he reminded us that we belonged there, and that we were "healthy, capable, and brilliant." When self doubt has crept in over the many years since that orientation, I have been drawn back to his reassuring words. Rest in Peace Dean Burgett and know you have changed our UR community for the better. You will be missed.
Karen Rilke, Class of 1993
“I will forever miss Paul Burgett. Dean Burgett had an incredible impact on my life from the moment I set foot on campus as a freshman. This continued during my time as an employee and Assistant Dean for Student Life at Eastman; he taught me so much about the school and the lives of student musicians. I was hoping to see Dean Burgett in October during Meliora Weekend, where he’d inevitably bellow out something along the lines of “There he is! Dean Smith!” He was a great mentor; always encouraging and thoughtful. As I go about my student life work now in San Francisco, I think of Paul often. Rest in peace, my friend.
Jason Smith, '03, '08W, co-chair of the Bay Area Network Leadership Cabinet
“I always admired Paul although I have not seen him in many years. He was a shining star at ESM and in his many positions after his student days. My condolences. He will be missed.
Joan Regli Paltenstein, Eastman School of Music Class of 1969, violinist
“I still remember Dean Burgett. Although my first encounter with him was brief during my first semester at Rochester almost a quarter of a century ago. I was about to enter Rush Rhees Library and just before I stepped in I held the door open for him. I didn't know who he was at the time and he paused and looked at me and said "You are not from around here are you?" I smiled back at him and replied, "No Sir. I am from Minnesota." Till this day I still remember what he said next...he had a spark in his eyes and he said "Hang on to that Midwestern charm son.â€ I can only imagine what an impact he had on the University over the years when his words to me on that fall morning are still felt on my heart today. I think we all feel honored to have been touched by a great soul and may his legacy continue to live on at U of R. His life was an example of our motto...Melioria! May he rest knowing that he made a difference in our world and in our hearts...forever better.
Ajay Singh Bika, Class of 1997
“I am overwhelmed to read the many heartfelt memories that so many have shared about our dear friend and colleague Paul Burgett. Coming in to work today I realized that I now understand what it means for someone to be bigger than life. I can still remember the day when Paul gave me his "private" office number and how special I felt. Not that I ever used it much but today when I looked in my "old school" rolodex, there it was. Paul made everyone feel special; that's simply who he was. When my daughter enrolled as a transfer student at the UR, I told her she needed to take his "History of Jazz" course--the only course I strongly recommended to her--and she did take it so that she too could make a connection with the one and only Dean Burgett. During my five years as UR's Orientation director, I experienced a simultaneous mix of joy, awe and anxiety when we prepared for his Fiery Furnace speech each year. (The anxiety due to the inevitability that he would exceed his allotted time--regardless of how much he was given!) Finally, when Dan Watts and I assigned advisors to students each year we always paused to acknowledge that the students assigned to Paul would have a college experience like no other. It was only in recent years that Paul contacted me to tell me that he no longer had the time to advise his students. I have no idea how he managed to do it for as long as he did, given his busy schedule but clearly it was one of the most important commitments he had. I still have that email he sent to me. With deep gratitude to you, Paul, for all that you did to demonstrate for all of us what it means to live a Meliora life.
Marcy Kraus, staff
“Paul Burgett's immense curiosity, and the wide perspective it created, extended to people in addition to intellectual matters. He displayed genuine interest in each acquaintance made and had a way of making your concerns his concerns, your interests his interests. After time with Paul, I always felt appreciated, inspired, and...validated. He was an extremely empowering individual who is already sorely missed. However, the example he set left such an indelible mark that his spirit and behavior of empowering others will surely live on through the astounding number of lives he touched.
Adam Bates, Simon School of Business, Class of 2007
“Some people are difficult or impossible to replace in the roles they played. Paul will be one of them.
David Friedman, alumni
“My prayers, love, and healing to all that he touched and influenced. I will always will remember his passion, booming voice, willingness to listen, and honesty. His dedication, and most of all, his love for life and all that are in it!!!!
Dr. Melanie D. Driver-Milow, Class of 1997
“I was heartbroken to hear the news of Dean Burgett's passing. I had just sent him a happy birthday message on Facebook. I had the privilege of working with Dean Burgett as a student leader throughout my time as an undergrad and finally as senior class president. Our meetings with him always contained lots of laughter while getting down to serious work. He was the reason I stayed involved in student leadership and I am sure any of the other class leaders would say the same. You just wanted to be able to go to those meetings with him to be inspired and to know that you can be your best self. Throughout the years I would send him an email and he would always respond. Then Facebook made it easier to connect. He stayed in touch and I know that I am just one of the many, many, many students he stayed in contact with over the years. I graduated with my PhD in music education in May of 2017 and who do I hear from with the most heartfelt congratulations, but Dea n Burgett. He never forgot any of his students. The University of Rochester community is suffering a great loss. Rest in peace Dean Burgett, and thank you for pushing us into that fiery furnace and waiting for us on the other side.
Jacqueline Cratin Smith, '85E
“Heart-felt condolences to Paul's family - they have much to be proud of with Paul. I'm grateful that he and I overlapped as ESM students, and I have followed Paul's career over the years with much admiration and happiness for him.
Marshall Burlingame, Eastman School of Music alumni, '64 and '66
“Paul Burgett was a shining light for me when I was an undergrad at the UR. Just hearing or reading his name over the passing years was enough to put a smile on my face. If I am to be sad at his passing, it is because he is no longer around to brighten up another student's day. May his kind and vivacious spirit live on in Meliora.
Sumilu Cue, Class of 1990
“Paul Burgett was an amazing person who lived the most knowledgeable, fullest life I have ever had the privilege of being exposed to while I was a student, staff, and alum. Many alumni (like me) aspired to emulate his life as an intellectual, humanist, artist, fantastical storyteller, diplomat and true lover of education and the world. He will be missed but never forgotten...There are far too many stories from him and about him that will never be lost.
Monique "Nikki" Terry, alumni
“If it were not for Paul Burgett I may have never finished my undergraduate studies. My father died between my second and third year at Eastman. Paul met with my mother and me as we were set to share the news that I would not be returning to school in the fall. Paul compassionately assured me that there was a way to continue my studies. He helped arrange financial aid and a work-study program to supplement social security benefits so that I had the opportunity to continue with my studies and graduate. Thank you for assisting me and countless students over your career, Paul. May comfort be with family and friends at this special time.
Rev. Dr. Shawn Kafader, Eastman School of Music Class of 1981
“Sad to hear of Paul's passing. We shared many lunch conversations when we both on the faculty at Greece Arcadia High school. We also served together in the U.S. Army Reserve when he was the 98th Division Band Drum Major. He always cut a fine figure in parades! I always followed his career with great interest.
Michael T. Graves, MA 1996
“Paul was a constant beacon of light during my time at the U of R. Always had a smile on his face every time I ran into him. Reading the news of his passing brought back warm memories of a class I took with him. History of the African American Music. I had never seen anyone dive deeper into the nuances of any subject with as much passion as Paul did. For 3 months, I had a front-row seat to a course in discovering the real lessons in any subject. Paul was an amazing teacher. A wonderful friend. And a supporting force for every student. I am sure everyone who knew him will remember him fondly, just as I will.
Michael Moshiri, Class of 1992
“I'm shocked and saddened by Paul's passing. I am feeling vulnerable and mortal at the moment. How could Paul be gone? He achieved so much for the U of R during his tenure that to think of the River campus without him is inconceivable. Through the years we used to catch up by phone with each other and "kibbitz" about fellow classmates when we had that rare lunch together when I was in town. My reality is forever altered and I'll certainly feel his loss keenly. Suzy and I send our sincere condolences to both his nuclear and extended families.
Michael Isaacson, Ph.D in music composition, Eastman School of Music
“I can't believe Dean Burgett has left us. He was a defining figure in my Rochester experience and the best professor I had. This is from an email I sent him earlier this year:
Dear Dean Burgett,
I was a student of yours at UR and I was amazed to realize that it’s been ten whole years since I took “History of Jazz” (Fall ‘07) and “The Music of Black Americans” (Spring ‘08). I wanted to let you know how fondly I remember those courses. They were easily my favorite classes at UR and have had the most impact on my life. When I took your class, I was a casual fan of jazz but your class gave me a whole new appreciation for it.
I still vividly remember many of your lectures, like the discussion on oral vs. literate musical traditions, the stride pianists, and the development of bebop. Also, I still watch many of the videos you played in class, especially the film St. Louis Blues starring Bessie Smith, and the Nicholas brothers dance routine at the end of Stormy Weather. One of my papers was on Rahsaan Roland Kirk and he’s still one of my all-time favorite artists.
After graduation, I went to graduate school at Tulane University in New Orleans. For the past six years, I’ve been immersed in jazz history. My office was ~3 blocks away from the 400 block of Rampart Street where the Eagle Saloon, the Iroquois theater, and the Karnovsky’s tailor shop still stand. It was thrilling to walk the same streets where Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong played. I was also able to go to the “second line” for Fats Domino. Having the background knowledge from your classes has made it so much more enriching and allowed me to appreciate my surroundings.
Michael Cypress, Class of 2010
“The kindest of souls.
Neal Seidberg, Class of 1989
“He was a friend to my family as both my parents went to UofR in the 60’s and 70’s. He helped me transfer to the University after a disastrous first semester at another college. I will always remember his kindness and wise counsel. Loving thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family and the University at large.
Lisa Grenier, Class of 1986
“Dean Burgett was extraordinary in so many ways and a hero to me and countless others. He was always kind, generous, brilliant, funny and a total inspiration. Hands down one of the best humans I've ever known. I will miss him dearly and send love to his family, friends and the Rochester community. Be in peace, Dean Burgett.
Sheel Pandya, Class of 1996
“I met Paul as an undergraduate freshman in 1988. The friendship I developed with this compassionate, kind soul has been a totem for my life. Though he guided me as an advisor through my undergraduate years, his magical influence became even greater thereafter. He is an example I have referenced for two decades in the good times and bad...I am having a hard time imagining the World without him. Last year I had the honor of introducing my 17 year old daughter, Morgan, to him. He spent two hours with her. When their conversation ended, she clearly had a better understanding of ME, and I felt as though no time had passed since the first days we met. He is a dear friend. I am sure my sadness will soon be replaced with the satisfaction of knowing how fortunate I am to have had a friendship with Paul. We need more Paul Burgetts. The greatest satisfaction in life comes from having a genuine interest in the well being of others - and Paul embodied that trut h. With a heavy heart and tears streaming down my face, I wish Paul the best in his next journey. I'm going to print out and save our emails - full of insanity and laughter - as a tribute to a man who "did it right." BRAVO
Jason Batley, BA 1992, MD 1996
“I am so saddened. Paul was a best friend when we were students at Eastman. And often when I returned to Rochester over the years we shared warm memories of those bygone days. I am missing him.
Martha Kirchenbauer Ellison, alumna, Eastman School of Music
“When I saw the e-mail of the report of Paul's passing I was immediately struck. While I never had much of a personal one-on-one interaction with him, I certainly remembered him for his humor and genuine presence.
I vividly remember hearing him during a 'pre-frosh' weekend or whatever it was called when I visited campus while in high school - he talked about the paper over the window in the rehearsal room and other stories. His talk had a major impact on deciding to attend UofR.
He was the spirit of UofR.
He is the embodiment of Meliora.
Rest in Peace Sir!
P.S. I hope they give you a violin instead of a harp.
Brian Meehan, BS 1995, MS 1996
“Dean Burgett’s “Black ball “ speech that he gave at the Eastman freshman orientation is a constant reminder to me not to doubt myself. Thanks for your inspiration, warmth and humor! I am foreverr grateful to you for your magnanimous spirit!
Marianne Gythfeldt, Eastman School of Music 1984
“Paul Burgett came to University Advancement several times in recent years to give staff an overview of University history. His riveting presentations initiated newcomers like me into the spirit and history of "meliora" (in fact I think we learned from him about the very person behind its selection as the University motto). He spellbound all of us, even those who had seen the presentation before. And in these presentations he was a living embodiment of what makes this a special place. I did not know Dr. Burgett, but he made me feel like I did when we had a chance encounter on campus some time later.
Jon, University Advancement
“Even on your worse day, Dean Burgett made you feel like 300%. As a vocalist my entire life, his jazz course was the first time in 20+ years where I felt liberated to explore music without judgement. He made anyone passionate about Jazz & all aspects of life. He was amiable, loving and respectful. I am forever thankful for his energy and invaluable advice. May he be singing and celebrating the life he made me appreciate so much more with the angels in Heaven!
Jesenia Angeles, alumna
“Oh..what a sad day for all that knew him!! I was one of many who was inspired by Dean Burgett. He was full of passion and never failed to share his love of learning and his zest for life. I couldn’t wait to take his class and when I did, I quickly learned what an incredible force and talent we had at our school. One of my fondest memories from graduation day was his high five. My heartfelt condolences to him and his family.
Jennifer Drake Forstner ‘94
“I had the honor of meeting him for a 1:1 during my time at Rochester and he was everyone inch the person he portrayed to be. An incredibly infectious leader one aspires to be. Thank you Dean Burgett.
Tunde Babalola '02
“My husband, Mike, and I were fortunate to have lived next door to Paul and Kay for over 25 years, so we got to know Paul outside his academic world. Although reading so many of the comments about Paul, he was still the kind, caring person at home as he was at the University. I remember hearing about a night, many years ago, after Paul & Kay returned from Greece. They brought back some Ouzo to share with my husband and another neighbor. Sounds like it was quite an evening for all!!! For many years, we gathered for breakfast on the Sunday morning of the Corn Hill Festival at the Corn Hill Cookery. We would barely make it down the street before three or four people who Paul knew would stop him to say hello. He was larger than life, always greeting you with a hug, and a wonderful, wonderful human being. We are sad for our loss of a friend and extend our deepest sympathy to Kay.
Anne Dupin, former neighbor and friend
“Paul Burgett was an amazing man. To me, he is UR and will always be the best of the University of Rochester. His passing is a loss for future UR staff and students but his life was a blessing to us all.
Eric Cohen, alumni
“Dean Burgett was the reason I attend UofR and I am deeply sad to hear of his death. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Lauren Mangiola Rush, Class of 1999
“I am sad to hear this news. My condolences to his family. He is leaving a legacy and will be greatly missed.
Anne Tucker, employee
“Paul was one of a kind. He performed exceptionally in everything he did. He always made everyone feel valued, important and appreciated. He will be greatly missed.
Nancy Becker Guilfoyle, Eastman School of Music, alumni
“A person that departs from this earth never truly leaves, for they are still alive in our hearts, through us, they live on. My condolences.
Vijaye A. Ramjattun, parent
“My condolences to his family. I remember him as a student devoted to education and a friendly trustworthy person.
Lynn M. Milano, Class of 1968
“I join the multitude of others who are mourning the passing of our friend and colleague Paul Burgett. I had the privilege of being part of Paul’s student affairs team at the University of Rochester. We shared our roles as both employees and alumni, he from Eastman School and me from the River Campus. While his tenure was longer--his undergraduate days started in 1964 while mine started in 1968, and I left in 2002 and he continued on until the present--we shared a love for the University – its history, its students, and its potential.
Paul regularly reminded students that they were the future leaders of the world. As a team that had the most day-to-day contact with students, those of us on Paul’s staff relished the opportunities we had to guide those future leaders and help them to find their passion. Paul often told us that our jobs were just excuses to get into student lives, to help them over the rough spots, to help them avoid the pitfalls, and to encourage them to fall in love with something and/or someone that would become central to their lives. Paul’s roots were not in the world of the student affairs profession, but his instincts and passion drove him to recognize that student affairs professionals deal with the “front stage” issues that students bring to us while hoping that we can help them to deal with the “back stage” issues as well. Paul’s team in those days included a collection of amazing individuals: Dr. Clifford Reifler and Dr. Ralph Manchester, who as directors of the University Health Service assured that students had access to medical care that exceeded what was available to most of the general public; Dr. Allan Schwartz, director of Mental Health Services, who helped us as a team to create a safety net for students struggling with more than just the challenges of academic life; Dr. Logan Hazen, who took UofR’s aging residence halls and updated the facilities and built active programs to engage students; Jeff Vennell, who embraced the philosophy of scholar-athletics while developing recreational facilities and programs for everyone; Mary Beth Cooper and Jody Asbury, who guided the Dean of Student’s Office – providing support for students who were struggling financially, emotionally, or in discipline situations; Barbara Harris Smith, who helped Rochester’s growing international student population integrate with the campus and community cultures; and Father Joseph Brennan, Director of the Interfaith Chapel, who gave students of all religious t raditions a place to feel secure and to celebrate and share their spirituality. We partnered with dozens of individuals across the university “silos” to assure that we provided a continuum of care for students. People like Suzanne O’Brien in the College Deans Office, who partnered with us to help students who may have been challenged academically and emotionally. Paul’s collegiality at the leadership level of the campus helped all of us to build productive bonds across administrative lines with offices such as Facilities, Security, Purchasing, Human Resources, Financial Affairs, and the colleges.
Many tributes have remarked about Paul’s large personality and ability to connect with others. I recall several conversations that we had where he confided that he was, at heart, a very shy person. While I’m not sure to this day that I believe that, he told me how he had to work at connecting with others: tricks he used to remember names, and how he would approach a room full of people with a plan for who to speak with and what to speak about. As a hard-core introvert, I took his lessons to heart and, while I can’t claim any major improvements, I know that I am a better leader as a result of those conversations.
During my forty years as a student affairs professional, I’ve learned a lot about the mechanics of student affairs, university administration, management, and leadership. As a senior examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards, I’ve had the opportunity to see what makes some of the best-run organizations in the world successful and to work with some of the smartest leaders. That said, I know that whatever success I’ve had as a student affairs professional has been shaped by Paul’s tutelage. Students and their families give us the privilege of working with them to develop their passions and grow into their roles as leaders: of businesses, of faith communities, of charitable organizations, of local, regional, national, and international governments, and of families that will carry their passions into the future. Paul embraced this opportunity with gusto and love. While I weep at his passing, I rejoice in the knowledge that his work is carried on by the multit udes of lives he impacted.
Rob Rouzer, alumni and former employee
“I remember Paul from our student days and I am so sad to hear this news. My sincere condolences to Paul's family and loved ones; he'll be remembered with fondness and admiration for a long time to come.
Elizabeth Young Bachelder, Eastman School of Music BM 1969, MM 1970, DMA 1981
“The St. Louis University High community is saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Paul Burgett, a 1964 graduate of our school. Dr. Burgett was a recipient of the Backer Award, our school's most distinguished alumni recognition, for embodying the principles and traditions of a Catholic, Jesuit education. He was truly a Man for Others and will be missed by our school community. Please know of our thoughts and prayers for the University of Rochester.
Alan Carruthers, friend, and President - St. Louis University High School
“I am left speechless and saddened by the loss of Dr. Paul "Dean" Burgett. He was a guiding light and a shining star to everyone who knew him. He made each individual feel important. It was a privilege to have know him and one of the highlights of my time at Eastman. Dean Burgett was special and I will always be thankful for him. The world was definitely a better place because he was in it.
Thank you. Rest In Peace. You will be missed but never forgotten.
Diane Schuhmann Ralston, Eastman School of Music Class of 1986
“The passing of this great man, whom I had the honor and pleasure to count as a friend from undergraduate days at Eastman, is still too sudden to allow thoughtful reflection. Although Paul and I had not kept in touch often during the nearly 50 years since our respective graduations, I had the opportunity to meet his sister Mary, a gifted mezzo soprano, at her home in Vienna, where we prepared performances of my Five Spirituals for voice and orchestra that were to take place in Poland in the Spring of 1978 (only to fall victim to Russo-American political tensions). Yet the chance to know a member of his immediate family deepened my understanding and appreciation of Paul himself. Everyone who knew Paul in undergraduate days shared the sense that this man was destined for leadership. Fast-forwarding to 2016, while my daughter was in her first undergraduate year on the River Campus, she and I scheduled a meeting with Paul, who, despite his obviously heavy sched ule, cleared an hour to meet with us. The effect of this first meeting on my daughter was such that she reached out to him on a number of occasions during the next two years. It is no exaggeration to say that Paul has been among the most effective advisers whose guidance has benefited Anna during her undergraduate career. And there is no doubt that Paul has illuminated the paths of a great number of individuals during his long career at the U of R. Although at this moment it is still inconceivable to me that he has been taken from us, I am determined to find ways to celebrate his life and to draw inspiration from it throughout the future. Farewell, my friend.
Joel Suben, Eastman School of Music Class of 1969
“Dean Burgett defined the ripple effect- his boundless radiance simply expanded and bounced and nudged all of us to be better students, better alumni, and better people. I haven't stopped bouncing since I met him. And I have a feeling he won't stop either. Thanks Dean Burgett, thanks so very much.
Caesar Luo, Class of 2002 (Arts and Sciences) Class of 2006 (School of Medicine and Dentistry)
“I met Paul Burgett my freshman year at Eastman in 1972. He already had the nickname the "Perpetual Student". He was a grad student and one of the 5 Afro Amercan students in the whole school at that time. A very warm and affable guy who was able to make you feel welcome and that you belonged ...and could keep you smiling. He was, even then, a little larger than life. He was good friends with my now husband Alvin Parris (class of '73) and over the years since Eastman, I've kept up with Paul through their friendship. Remarkable to see the progress of his tenure at the U of R....still the perpetual student (smile)....in that he was always learning and growing ...and then living and sharing what he learned. He was always a great friend, to adults and students alike. We will miss that warm and smiling face. Truly we have all lost a treasure. Blessings and condolences to the family.
Debra Bryant Parris, Class of 1976
“Dean Burgett taught with a passion that few individuals possess. His impact was felt campus-wide, and he changed countless lives with his amazing ways. He will be missed, and the void he leaves will be hard to fill.
Alexander Kerpelman, alumnus
“As a graduate student at Rochester in the early 1980s, Paul was a mentor; he was a thoughtfully engaged, deeply human, spirited colleague in the 1990s. The University of Rochester was made a better place because of Paul Burgett. He will be fondly remembered.
Dr. Warren Crichlow, EdD, former faculty member, Warner School
“Terrible news out of the University of Rochester... beloved Dean Paul Burgett has passed away at the young age of 72. My wife and I were talking about the sad news today and she said “there literally isn’t a person who met Dean Burgett that didn’t like him.” That’s exactly right.
When I wanted to start a music group on campus, Paul took $100 out of his own wallet to help me. I wrote to him a few years ago after I wrote a blog post that mentioned this formative incident and he responded like I remembered him “Matt: What a treat to get this post. I remember well your initiative to get the Stingers going—always a challenge for any startup group. But you were smart and persistent; that plus a little money can go a long way. Hard to believe that was 18 years ago. Good grief, where does the time go? I look forward to receiving the next installment of your post. Meantime, thanks for your leadership in those long ago days and all best wishes for continued success in all your current pursuits.”
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to know Dean Burgett. He will be deeply, deeply missed.
Matt Douglas, Class of 1996
“I arrived at Eastman as the "new German teacher" in the fall of 1972. Paul, leading a group of four other worried graduate students, approached me one morning to see if I would teach a class on German for Reading so they could pass their language exam. Since it was my 5th preparation for the semester, I was reluctant, but I agreed, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. It gave me a chance to really get to know Paul and become one of his gazillions of friends--for Paul had that quality of making friendships that lasted--it was a rare quality. During the 19 years that I remained at ESM, Paul was always there. After he graduated he remained in administrative capacities, and he became a valuable counselor and sounding board on many issues. I continued to watch Paul's career rise, even after I left to teach elsewhere. We reconnected about three years ago when I wrote to congratulate him on the occasion of his semi-retirement and the great story about his life and career in the Rochester Review with his picture gracing the cover. His response was fantastic and brought back so many memories. To me Paul was a fixture at the U of R and just seemed eternal. My heart goes out to Kay.
Ruth Gross, former faculty member at Eastman School of Music
“Even as I approach my 20-year reunion, I have many fond memories of Paul Burgett. I have never seen a university dean so passionate about his students. I fondly remember how visible he was on campus, what an effort he made to get to know as many students as possible, and how inspiring he was when he spoke. My U of R experience was better for the fact that Paul was part of it. He will be dearly missed and eternally remembered by those whose lives he touched.
Megan Engleman Swope, alumna
“Me and my family offer our deepest condolences. He was a great scholar and gentleman. His wisdom and knowledge knew no bounds. It was an honor to know him and all that he stands for. I will always Remember His laugh and speeches filled the quad and Meliora hall. He mentored his students with a love for music and black issues. He made this cold world a better place.
Simonne Bouyea, alumni
“I did not know him personally. I've seen him on many occasions doing great things in the community. I had the honor of hearing him speak at the Dr. Martin Luther King celebration several years ago at the Eastman. Dr. Burgett also was in attendance at the U of R for several programs. He was a gentle giant and his presence will be missed!! Continued thoughts and prayers for friends and family!!
Margaret Finch, Class of 1975
“Grad school while responsible for sole care of a young child is sometimes discouraging, and Paul Burgett was always, unfailingly, a ray of light and encouragement. Whenever he entered a room (or hall) everything and everyone seemed to awaken to joy. I thank our loving heavenly Father for sending Paul Burgett to us.
Dolores Weller Gadevsky, DMA '87
“Some are remembered because their names are on buildings, Dean Burgett will be remembered because his name is imprinted on the spirit of our University.
John LaBoda, Class of 2002
“The friendliest, most charismatic and encouraging person during my time at the university!
Yogwardhan Parihar '13
“I will miss you dear Dean Burgett, thank you for brightening the gray days with your smile and spirit.
Belis Aladag, Class of 2001
“Dean Burgett was the daddy we went to for guidance support and direction. His gentle spirit was good humored and he will be missed. Sending love to his family.
Maggie Parkins, Eastman School of Music Class of 1985
“I had the privilege of taking two music classes with Paul Burgett. Pretty much the only reason I took them was because I knew he was teaching them. He was one of the best and most engaging teachers I had while at UofR. He taught with such enthusiasm and passion, and in his l lectures I learned not only about the history of music, but about life. He was the embodiment of all things great about the university and was a tremendous ambassador. He will be deeply missed.
Gregory Dusek, BS ‘04, MS ‘05
“I met Paul Burgett through his sister Lettie who was a U of R undergraduate at the same time as me (and is now a prominent pediatrician in southern California) and who likewise remained active in alumni affairs for many years. I remember thinking, wow, what a gem, just like his sister. I saw him many times over the years through my own alumni activities, and I watched and admired as his career at the University evolved from one role to another, each time with greater prominence and responsibility. He embodied "Meliora" -- always better -- more than anyone I can think of. My heartfelt condolences to his entire family.
Gerry Katz, Class of 1970
“I am so saddened to learn of Paul's passing. His life was like a beacon of light for so many. He was a classmate of mine('68) and I was so looking forward to seeing him at the reunion this October. My deepest condolences to family and friends.
Cathy Callis, alumna
“It was a pleasure to get to meet paul and my morning hugs will be missed god gained a true angle my prayers go out to Kay and his family.
Chancye White, Secretary on WCC5
“Dean Burgett, I still have that little yellow card you told us to keep during convocation of my freshman year. Now, I hold that slip of paper a little closer to my heart, reminded of fond memories of my college home beside the Genesee. Your passion for the history and traditions of the University shaped my college experience and continue to influence me as an alumna. The University of Rochester is a better place because of your warmth, true kindness, and generous spirit.
Jessica Rose '16
“He was very sensitive, living and caring to me and my son. He handled a tough situation with respect, love, and conviction for what is the right thing to do. My son later graduated with great grades, and even returned to Rochester to work at the university modeling his integrity, sincere affect, and can do attitude. This is a big loss.
Terry Greene, parent
“It's an understatement to say that Paul Burgett had a lasting impact on everyone he touched, and will be deeply missed. I cannot think of anyone else like Dean Burgett, who could possibly know and remember everyone the way he did. His warm personality, his friendly approach, and his easy-going manner made him less an administrator than a mentor, an advisor and a friend to all. I remember my frequent visits and phone calls to his office in Wilson Commons to interview him for various stories for the Campus Times, and the ease in which he communicated and related with everyone. And years later, long after graduation, when I would see him at an alumni event or on campus, his sharp memory and ability to recall and catch up were always impressive. Indeed, no one else on campus could possibly have had such an impact on so many lives as to generate the outpouring of sadness, shock and tears that his passing has brought out. Someone may succeed him in his professional roles and duties, but no one can ever replace him. There will always be only one Paul Burgett. RIP, and may his memory always be for a blessing on all of us.
Jonathan Epstein, Class of 1993, former Campus Times news Editor
“Dean Burgett was an amazing person. I still remembered seeing him at the convocation during my freshman orientation and never in my life have I seen anyone who really welcomed me and the other freshmen into a city which we have never been to. Hearing his death really devastated him and may he rest in peace.
Zhuoran Zhang, alumni
“It is so very hard to capture how special Paul was in a few words. I will always remember him as a man who always had time for anyone who needed him - when you talked to him, you felt like you were the most important person he was meeting that day.
I had the privilege of hearing Paul's talk on the history of the University of Rochester several times. No matter how many times I heard it, the delivery never got old!
Paul was one of those rare individuals whose grace, decency and genuine caring shone out in every interaction. He was a cornerstone of what I have come to appreciate about the UR and he will be greatly missed. Rest in peace, Paul.
Samantha Singhal, co-deputy CIO
“UR has lost a truly important part of its community. No words for how much I will miss Paul Burgett, a good friend, an inspiration. But all of us who Paul touched will now have a job to do in providing the caring support, passionate guidance, and thoughtful leadership he demonstrated throughout his career.
Kara Finnigan, Warner School faculty
“The thing is, Paul Burgett was "the real deal" of a gorgeously realized human being -- intelligent, insightful, passionate, caring and giving. Paul Burgett at the podium was the same as Paul Burgett engaged in spontaneous conversation with students or Paul Burgett encountered in a local grocery. He seemed to bring his lifetime of wide-ranging experience and wisdom into his warm and open presence in any circumstance. His ebullience in living and learning and sharing with others -- often with gentle humor -- served to bring out "the better angels of our nature." So now, I appreciate joining with others in mourning our great loss by uttering my fond and tremendously respectful farewell to Paul Burgett. His presence lives on in many a heart and mind.
Phyllis Andrews, 2017 (retired), Literary Collections Curator, Department of Rare Books & Special Collections
“I got to know Paul Burgett at the Eastman School where I started my career more than 35 years ago. A beautiful man inside and out. He had a way of making everyone around him feel appreciated and special. And he convinced me, hired to teach French to accomplished musicians, my students, that they needed me. They needed to know there was a large and exciting world outside music. I loved talking with him about all sorts of things, about students, about travels, about life. Chats punctuated here and there by his beautiful laugh. Paul was both profound and light-hearted. He was one of the kindest people I will ever know. We are all the poorer for his passing. And I am heartbroken. My deepest sympathies to Kay, to all his family, and to his many friends.
Aimée Israel-Pelletier, Professor of French at the Eastman School of Music 1982-1993
“Dr. Burgett was one of the first people who impacted me as a student at the U of R. I am a first generation American and the first person in my family to go to college. To say I was lost and afraid is no overstatement of my freshmen year. Dr. Burgett booming personality and helpful nature was outstanding. May he rest in peace!
Madeline Levy, Class of 1992
“If you ever have or had that one educator that made such great impression on you then you'll know how saddened I was to hear of Dr. Burgett's passing. I am truly heartbroken. I only hope that I can be as good and kind to my students as he was to me. I will miss you Dr. Burnett, but my faith tells me we will meet again some day. I pray for Kay and your entire family.
“I always remember him smiling, kind, funny, and welcoming. He will be a great loss to the Univeristy. May he rest peace.
Gloria Diaz, Class of 2000
“Paul was a classmate and student leader who had aspirations to lead others from the very beginnings of his freshman year. He left a huge footprint on his contemporaries and all of those students he nurtured . To all who knew him he was True North.The loss of Paul was not just a loss to the university,but to the the civilized world as well.
Sandy Valerio, Eastman School of Music, Class of 1968
“I started at Eastman the same year as Paul and some twelve years later we finished our PhD's together. For this final (and climactic) endeavour Paul and I formed two/fifths of a study group preparing for doctoral comprehensive written and oral exams. Meeting once a week at first, then twice, then three times as panic at the approaching date became ever more intense, we presented to one another essays to be digested, scores to be identified, topics to be researched for our next meeting. But it seemed my panic was not shared by all, especially not Paul, who remained scholarly, calm, and funny throughout our months of travail. And it is this last quality -- the lightness and humour underlying the profoundly serious scholar and concerned ethical human that he was, which has left the most indelible impression. Deep and bright he was , but Paul was funny and he laughed a lot. And, loved by so many, he achieved a great, great deal. Is there a better life? Goodbye, Paul.
Victor Savant, Eastman School of Music BM'67; PhD '76
“I cannot believe that Dean Burgett is no more. It is an extremely sad day for the UofR community at large. I recall meeting him my first day of International orientation - sometime in August 1992 at the Interfaith Chapel. His funny and dynamic welcome had me speechless. I went up to him and said this was the most impressive public speaking I have ever seen. He never forgot that and we keep meeting each other, be it at Dandelion day when we would dance together or office in the top floor of Wilson Commons where he first helped us with our meal plan as we were from India. His connect with the students was his key asset! His trademark is always his ‘bear hug’ with extreme warmth.
Time went by and I kept in touch with him after graduation. He met my parents for lunch at the faculty club when they visited UofR many years later as they couldn’t afford a visit during graduation time.
I even kept in regular touch via email till recently and would meet him at all our reunions and visits to Rochester. He told me ‘once you have studied at UofR, you are always a citizen of Rochester’. I will never forget those words.
Tears roll down my eyes as I write this note. My heart is heavy and I feel empty ..... sitting in chennai, india I don’t even know whom to turn to and cry. I want to hug everyone at the UofR campus now. His amazing assistant Beverly was so soft and gentle and would always find time to slot me in his calendar. I cannot begin to imagine her loss or the loss felt by Dean Burgett’s family.
Will miss you deeply Dean Burgett...I stand a proud UofR student and dear friend of yours imagining that I am singing the Genesee and you are there in front of us leading the orchestra in your trademark style. Miss you. Lots of bear hugs. RIP
Navin Ram, Class of 1995
“I am truly saddened by the loss of this amazing man. He had such a warm, kind spirit and a zest for life. My favorite memory was when I returned to the University a year after I had graduated and attended a student program he hosted. He asked participants to share what the university meant to them, particularly our motto, Meliora. I shared that I had used the motto as the theme of my graduate school application, as I was planning to pursue a Masters degree in public health (health behavior/health education). He asked if I was accepted into the program and I proudly told him I was - he was so genuinely happy for me. To me, Dean Burgett WAS the University - he was always the first person to come to mind when I thought about U of R. He seemed to be the kind of person who would live forever. I know he will live on in our hearts and minds. My deepest condolences to his family, friends and the entire Rochester community.
Janice Horner '95
“I am very surprised and saddened at the news of Paul's demise. He and I became acquainted as undergraduates and periodically stayed in touch down through the years. It was always a great pleasure to see him and when he came to Philadelphia for alumni functions.
He spent practically his whole adult life in the service of the U or R. He will certainly be missed. I extend my most sincere condolences to his family.
Harrington E. "Kit" Crissey Jr. '96'
“Doing communications right requires a sense of touch--a feel for your audience, what it already knows and what it needs. How does someone new to Rochester develop that, especially during a crisis or tragedy? Climb the stairs to Paul's office, often multiple times a day, and ask basic questions over and over. The invariable response? Empathy for those affected (especially students), insight into the most complex problems, and wise advice, all delivered with a warm smile, good-humored patience with follow-up questions, and an often impish sense of humor. When life's absurdities began to pile up on a given day, one could always walk into Paul's office, close the door, share a laugh, and regain one's bearings. During my nine years working alongside him, Paul made me be more effective, and he made things fun, too.
Bill Murphy, retired, Vice President for Communications
“Dean Burgett is a true inspiration. His excitement and passion for academia inspired me to pursue an academic career. Even after seeing him speak at a graduation event, I am continuously reminded that I can aspire to have the same dreams that he expressed.
Tawana Robinson, alumni
“As a dual Eastman School/Arts and Sciences student, I moved through both campuses as sort of a ghost - or so I thought. One afternoon during my senior year, my piano teacher (Emily Vanderpool) remarked, “I was just talking with Dean Burgett about you...” - and I said, “wait...Dean Burgett knows who I am?”
Of course he did. Dean Burgett kept track of all of us, whether we knew it or not. And though he and I only ever exchanged a few words, I’ll always remember how good it felt to know that he had been looking out for me all along.
Doug Besterman, Class of 1986
“One of the most beautiful people you will ever meet.
Maxiam Dean, alumni
“For Paul Burgett, inspiring conversations over 50 years ago when we were kids on Cabanne Place in St. Louis remain with me. A song for you. Rest in Peace and may God receive you into His Kingdom. https://youtu.be/Vjla_FHNIWA
Barry LeNoir, President United Black Fund, Inc., Washington, DC
“Paul Burgett was a phenomenal educator, mentor, and friend. He will be fondly remembered by all who knew him.
Austen Erickson, alumni
“Dean Burgett and I both hail from St. Louis. I thought this gave me a "special" connection with him, but I soon realized that all the students at the University of Rochester were special to him. He demanded that we demand of ourselves excellence.
He knew how few Americans earn a degree beyond the bachelors, yet he repeatedly called us "Doctor" because his philosophy was that all of "his" University of Rochester students would some day become a "doctor" of something or the other. He rationalized it by saying that he would not be around forever and someone had to succeed him. I recalled hearing him call me "doctor" so much, with such conviction that I wonder if it subconsciously compelled me to pursue my doctorate. He was inspirational, honest, encouraging and a true ambassador for the University of Rochester.
Thabiti Lewis, Class of 1990 (English/History), Class of 1991(MAT)
“It is difficult for me to imagine the University of Rochester without the omnipresent life force of Paul Burgett that I was privileged to experience for the past 32 years. Paul transferred to the River Campus about the time I arrived to establish a music department in the College, a challenge that was not unanimously embraced within the university community. Paul, however, pledged his support early on, and then joined our faculty part-time, teaching one or two courses each year that quickly became legendary: "Musical Adventures: A Trip Too Hip To Miss" regularly recruited so many students that we had to cap enrollments. "Music of Black Americans" and "History of Jazz" added immeasurably to the College Music Department offerings. When his responsibilities as University Dean and Senior Advisor to the President permitted, Paul actively participated in department meetings and events, most memorably when he gave the rousing "valedictory" speech at our annual diploma ceremony. It, like the man himself, was larger than life and cannot be replaced, only celebrated for the profound way he touched the lives of those who learned from him, as I did again and again.
Kim Kowalke, Professor of Music/Musicology
“RIP Dean Burgett. You were truly one in a million, a total class act that made a positive difference in the lives of Rochester students for decades. My time at U of R was so much more amazing because you were a part of it. My sincerest condolences to your family. You will be greatly missed.
Alissa Amidon-Carbonaro, alumni
“There are no words that can do justice to Paul's impact on the entire university community and to me. In the 27 years I've known him, he has shown compassion, humor, fairness, and unequaled kindness towards everyone he encountered. He always had a smile and a hug. I will miss him dearly.
Cynthia Coates, Captain, Department of Public Safety
“As a senior in high school I was crushed by the fact that I wasn't accepted to my 'top choice' college. Yet all it took was one visit to UofR and hearing Paul Burgett give a welcome speech to potential freshman to know I was where I belonged. It was truly Dean Burgett's love of the university and his ability to inspire students to be their best that had me hooked. I loved my 4 years at UofR and am thankful for his inspirations.
Nancy Coulter Dennis, Class of 1997
“I will never forget Dean Burgett’s laugh or his ability to connect with people. After learning about my love of languages during one of our conversations, he literally walked me to the Study Abroad office so I could learn about their programs. I ended up going abroad the following semester and it changed my life. He was incredibly caring and our university community will miss him deeply.
Tynisha Lougher, alumni, '90 '91
“I had the privilege of working with Paul for nine years during my time as CEO of URMC. I witnessed first hand his wise counsel, extraordinary sense of humor, kindness, love of life, and larger than life personality. Whenever Paul was in the room, the room was a better place to be. He made the people around him feel better, think clearer, and enjoy life more. I also knew him through the Pundit Club, a group of "scholars" who met twice a month October through March. He and I co-wrote a paper on the collaboration between Bob Sproull and Bob Joynt that created the position of URMC CEO. It was a fascinating experience as we worked with the rare books librarian at Rush Rhees to find and review the correspondence between the two of them. I am sure that Paul lent his keen mind to many other projects such as this one. I will miss him very much, but I am fortunate to have many memories to enjoy that bring him back to life.
Bradford C. Berk, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine
“Dean Paul Burgett’s influence permeated the University of Rochester. He personified the university’s best values in his enthusiasm and kindness while championing involvement and social responsibility. My deepest sympathy to his family and many friends and admirers. Take comfort in the fact that his influence will be an enduring legacy at the university and beyond.
Dave Wingrove, Class of 78, facilites manager (retired)
“The University will ALWAYS have a big hole in its heart. Thanks to God for loaning Paul to the entire world.
Ruben Trevino, student
“I mourn the death of one of the finest representatives of the University. His genuine warmth, sense of humor, love of Alma Mater, commitment to students, and indomitable sense of style will be missed.
Jacqueline Blackett, alumna/former cross-country track & field coach
“Over the decades, you forget a lot of the speeches and addresses you've attended, but I still remember a lot of what Dr. Burgett said during my freshman orientation. Particularly, I remember the story of how he first left the door open while practicing his instrument as an Eastman freshman, then gradually, closed it halfway, then slammed it shut! A funny, yet appropriate way to symbolize the experience we were about to have: transition from high school student (big fish, small pond) to college young adult (minnow in an ocean). I also always kept in mind that he encouraged us to use the available athletic facilities/gymasia (as a way to impact not only our physical but also mental health). Just a few things that always stuck with me from those first and rather intimidating days as a young college student. So much good advice. I'm sad to hear of his passing, and hope his family knows how many students he impacted over his years at the U of R.
Jennifer (Whitney) Peirick, alumnus
“Paul has given us all one more gift over the last few days: perspective on what’s important. The unprecedented outpouring of sadness, gratitude and respect expressed on this Website and across the halls of Rochester affirms genuine admiration for one who walked among us motivated by “the better angels of our nature.”
Jack Kreckel, Senior Associate Vice President of Advancement
“I was speechless when I heard the news. The University community has suffered a huge loss. I think everyone Dean Burgett interacted with immediately felt a close bond to him. His vivacious personality, musical talents, and joie de vivre was infectious. An inspiration, scholar, and overall exemplary human being, he is dearly missed by many. "If not you, then who?"
Lena DeBaz, alumna
“Stunned and deeply saddened by the news of the death of Paul Burgett, whom Iâ€™d met him during my time at Eastman. I am hard-pressed to think of a more generous soul. He provided me with a great deal of ennobling encouragement and hope every time that I was lucky enough to spend time with him.
This was a man who truly understood the term 'higher education' in its most literal sense. He knew how to inject a sense of purpose and focused inspiration into those around him. The best example I can think of right now is when he talked to me during a dinner in Portland, OR about the essence of Marian Anderson's historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 (we had just met Miss Anderson earlier that day in 1992):
"... she showed the world that the thing to do when encountering people who dislike you for whatever reason is not to immediately hit back but, instead, try to find a way to reach out to such people with both hands and a smile and pull them up to a better way of thinking and living. Do this and you will be pulled upwards, too."
I readily remember choking back tears after hearing this.
After reading tributes on this website as well as in social media, I can now see that he served as a powerful father figure to everyone (EVERYONE) he encountered and that he possessed that rare, magical gift that is shared by many public figures. He was able to make the person he was addressing seem like the single most important person in the world to him. You never forgot him once you met him.
He loved everyone. And now God has seen fit to pull him upwards.
Michael Cameron, student at Eastman (1991-94)
“I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the family of Dean Burgett. His life and work remain a shining light and true inspiration. He will be dearly missed.
Stephania Romaniuk, BM ESM '10, Take 5 '11, MA Music Education '20
“Dean Burgett will be tremendously missed. I will remember him for two things:
1) His energizing address to the incoming students about what it means to be part of the University of Rochester community.
2) His generosity with his time to myself and other students (he gave me a 1:1 lunch at my request to give career advice).
His mark on the University will be enduring.
Kevin Sheldon, alumnus
“For many of us at Eastman, Dean Burgett’s memory will be associated with one of his favorite phrases: “Passion and ability drive success and ambition!” That principle is one of the many gifts we are so lucky to have received from this incredible man.
Michael Matthews, Eastman School of Music undergraduate student, class of 2020
“Rest in peace Dean Burgett. Our family will always cherish your wonderful presence and unquenchable postive spirit.
Laurence Fitzpatrick, Parent of Class of 2020 student
“Dear Dean Burgett
Thank you for being the guiding light in my life when I needed support and advice the most during my undergraduate career while going through a financial hardship/loss of loved ones. Your advice and encouragement guided me to the successful person I am today, for which, I am forever grateful and thankful. You have not only helped me but hundreds of people who are benefiting from my success. May you rest in peace and enjoy eternal bliss with our creator.
Love from the bottom of my heart,
Thaminda Ramanayake, College student, River Campus, Medical School (2007) and Simon School (2010)
“From the moment I met him, I knew he was a special person. I always looked forward to being in his company and always walked away feeling good. His words of wisdom made an impression on me and I have quoted these words on many occasion. He will be missed but never forgotten.
John Beck, Professor Emeritus of Percussion
“Dean Burgett had a combination of enthusiasm and compassion for his work and his students that has had a lasting impression on my time at UR and many more other students. I sincerely send my condolences to his family and the University community for losing such a shining soul. His powerful impact and presence will keep his legacy alive.
Zelalem Alabo '18
“Does anyone else remember Mr. Burgett's "Regional Treasure" anecdote? It's been more than twenty years, and maybe I remember the emotion the story evoked more than the actual story. But what a great way to gently let new freshman know that yeah, you might have been something special back home but now you're surrounded by "regional treasures" just like you. So get over yourself and get to work. Unfair that the community had to lose him so soon. He was much more than a regional treasure.
Stephen Trickey '94
“I vividly remember the first time I met Dean Burgett and the larger than life impression he left. He could move a crowd of hundreds or an audience of one with his enthusiasm for life and compassion for others - he was truly exceptional and he will be dearly missed.
Judith Modrak, alumna
“I got to know him thru Mise En Place Market, where I would wait on him. He was very friendly always had a smile. I am so grateful for meeting him and wish I could have gotten to know him better.
“Paul B. was the ultimate mentor and teacher. He was genuine, cared for student's concerns and supported the student community as a true leader. He will no doubt be greatly missed and even after having graduated almost 20 years ago, im saddened that this incredible man is no longer with us.
Imran Ahmed '98'
“Dean Paul Burgett was one of my earliest mentors. He gave a speech to incoming freshmen called "The Fiery Furnace" in which he called the students Rochester had gathered from all over the world "regional treasures." The first time I heard Dean Burgett say those words, it felt like he was talking to me. Later, I became an orientation advisor and realized that he gave a similar speech each year. He encouraged me as a student journalist, gave me an award for student activities, continued to take an interest in me after graduation. A few years ago, UR posted a video of the speech. I watched it the other night with tears in my eyes.
Rachel Coker '96
“He was just. Magical!! I knew him as a regular customer at a restaurant I worked at. His love for his wife was such a delight. His laugh was healing to all those around him. Just to know that such a human being was here in our midst. Thank you God for Dr. Burgett !!
MJ, volunteer usher
“I knew Paul as a dean and later as a colleague. He was the all-time favorite speaker at events for prospective students, as he conveyed the special experiences ahead for U of R students. He was always empathetic to students, understanding their problems and painful experiences. He always said the most difficult task he faced was to tell a music student that he or she was not going to be competitive as a performer. Paul endured happiness and sadness through many administrations. He will be sadly missed by all.
B. Ann Wright, alumna and former director of admissions
“Paul was an ever giving, always loving man. I have known Paul since my senior year of college here at the UR in 1991 when he helped me start a student group on campus which forged a connection with elementary students from a Rochester city school. When he learned I wanted to continue my education in working with high risk kids, he tirelessly wrote letters of recommendation for me for graduate school. In 2009, Paul welcomed me back to campus as an assistant professor in psychology with open arms and a big hug. When I assumed the position as dean for graduate studies in AS&E, I got an email from Paul..." I like to include in my Fiery Furnace speech to students, the question: “Who’s going to succeed me? If not you, then who?” Although you and I move in different orbits, your splendid career answers that question to my deep satisfaction." I have kept this email, however this message from Paul has all the more meaning now. Although it feels virtually imp ossible to succeed Paul Burgett, there is no greater aspiration that I can think of. Meliora, dean Burgett.
Melissa Sturge-Apple, Class of '92, Faculty in Psychology and dean of Graduate Studies in AS&E
“When a stone is cast out at just the right angle with just the right force it skips along a pond in a brilliant way leaving an infinite trail of dazzling ripples in its wake. This is the imagery that materializes in my mind as I think about the good fortune of Paul Burgett being thrust into the Rochester community. He personified what it means to lead with your heart, and inspired generations to not only appreciate the wonders of our world, but to go out and shape it. In the decade I had the privilege of being in Dean Burgett’s orbit, each time his gravity brought me close to his side, he found a way to launch my mind and ambitions to an entirely uncharted universe. My wife Hallie (c/o '09) and I will always cherish the incredible memories we shared with him, from lively meals, to cruising around the city of Rochester imagining what we would hear if, “those walls could talk.” He had the ability to make anyone and everyone feel special and taught this sk ill with his actions. His passing is far from a farewell, for his spirit will always grow “stronger day by day.” In “our hearts, where'er we roam…”
Scott Cohnstrenger '12
“On the first day of my five years on campus, Dean Paul Burgett blew me away with his genuine spirit, inspiring words, his zeal for living and feeling and "passioning" and motivating the wide-eyed entering class. He embodied the very ideal I held for what college was about: blowing open the doors on one's life and seizing the opportunities that would stretch before us.
What moved me most about him was how intently present he was with each and every student. He took the time to know us beyond our names or some data points. His interest was genuine: He looked into our eyes and saw our hearts.
Dean Burgett used to call me "Sam."
No one calls me Sam. It's not my name. But the funny thing is, when Dean Burgett called me Sam, it didn't bother me. I corrected everyone else. But when Dean Burgett called me "Sam," it was as if he was calling my heart, not my name. He had a familiarity with me from the first time we met. It was his gift, to be able to look into a young person's eyes and see their potential, their heart, their value. And he shone it right back at them with love and amusement.
On the day after "Dandelion Day" of my freshman year, two of my more-sober friends escorted my wilted body towards the dining hall. As we approached the steps to Douglas Hall, there was Dean Burgett, standing by the stairs, smiling and playfully chiding all of the wayward youth he had seen "overdoing it" the day before. Although I bowed my head to try to avoid the embarassment of being seen by this man I admired, he called me out, just the same:
His eyes twinkled, his lips curled up in a knowing grin, and he poked at me with, "Saaam, Sam, SAM, Sam, SAM!"
"Hi, Dean Burgett...," I mustered.
He continued: "I saw you yesterdayyyy, and I said to myself, 'Sam's one girl who's gonna be talkin' to Ralph on the Great White Telephone tonight!'"
"I'm never drinking again..." I squeaked, barely standing but for my two friends keeping me vertical.
"We'll see..." he smiled warmly.
Dean Burgett could say that to a person without a hint of judgment. It was the same bemusement with which he monitored every soul on the campus. Each of us was there for a moment, a fragment, having our life experiences in the incubator that was UR. And Dean Burgett witnessed it all, smiled above it all, and loved each one of us through our challenges and our triumphs.
And I imagine he will continue to do so, an angel hovering above the campus, shining love and light on the paths below.
Meliora, Dean Burgett.
With great love and admiration,
Samantha Slotnick, Student from Fall 1994 thru class of '98/ T5 '99
“There are so many great things to be said about Dean Burgett. He was a wonderful man who shaped so many lives, including my own. I remember sitting in Strong Auditorium the first week (the week before?) of school and Dean Burgett was addressing the freshman class. His attitude and personality helped settle a lot of nerves around the room. It made me want to get to know him more. So I did - I took 2 classes of his and learned an incredible amount about music and music appreciation. He always gave me the impression that if we crossed paths 20 years after college and hadn't seen or spoken since graduation, he would still know my name and want to know what I was doing AND be genuinely interested in it. In me. Or in you. It didn't matter who - he cared. He cared immensely about everyone. He will be greatly missed. My sincerest condolences to his family.
Matt Vaughn '02
“Paul was not someone I knew during my University years. But I did know of his legendary reputation later on through friends. My only encounter with him was during one of my Class Reunions when I stopped to speak with him in passing. He was so charismatic and interested in meeting me, that I immediately knew why he was so loved by all. I am saddened by his death.
Arlene Stolnitz, Class of 1956
“A tremendous human! Thank you for generous service, committed compassion and experiential wisdom. Your example of selfless leadership and lifelong devotion to UR made you an example for us all to emulate. A true man for others!
Mike Maloney, Orthopaedics
“Meeting Paul Burgett, you were first struck by his voice, which drew you to him instantly. It embodied what he was: warm, wise, and sterling, loyal, deep, and welcoming. I arrived on the River campus in the late 1990s after 15 years writing in Washington, D.C. Before long I valued his advice and trusted his word like an extended member of my family. I had ample company: I suspect most of the Rochester community felt so, too. Paul had a sublime gift and love of music. Eddie Gomez, who played bass with pianist with Bill Evans, termed a jazzman's aim "to make music that balanced passion and intellect." Paul brought precisely those qualities to his service at the Eastman School, the Hochstein School, and his courses in the history of jazz and the music of black Americans. Moreover, passion and intellect buoyed his nonpareil contribution to the broader University of Rochester and to the wider Rochester community--teacher, friend, leader, voice--and what a Voice he was. On Jackie Robinson's tombstone is inscribed: "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." Paul Burgett's impact was and will remain a tide, rippling on the University's shores for untold students to come.
Curt Smith, senior lecturer, Department of English
“When I began working at the University 37 years ago in the ESM registrar's office, Paul was dean of ESM students and a frequent visitor in our office. He was then, and remained throughout his life, one of the warmest, kindest, most genuine people I've ever had the privilege of knowing. He will be missed!
Nancy Griffith, director of OASIS applications, University Advanceent
“In echoing the numerous previous expressions, I am shocked and saddened to hear of Paul's passing. He was a frequent visitor in Rare Books & Special Collections and I will miss hearing his signature knock on the door come Thursday and Friday afternoons...and of course his gregarious stories of his travels and adventures. I will miss his genuine kindness and sincerity, incredible patience and ability to make all of us feel special and appreciated. I remember when I mentioned my son started learning how to play trombone, Paul was so wonderful with his expert advice and encouragement. He always had a kind word and smile- he brought the sunshine with him wherever he went.
Melinda Wallington, staff
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Dean Paul Burgett, who since 1980 had been a mentor and dear friend. Although Paul’s life was cut short, his accomplishments were vast and important in so many respects. Paul’s most valuable contribution was in the way he lived his life. Everyday was special, he lived in the now and appreciated the joys life offered with great gusto. Paul embodied the true meaning of ‘goodness.’ He was kind, sensitive, patient, an extremely good listener and showed an abundance of empathy for others. He is irreplaceable and will be missed.
I send my deepest sympathies to the entire Rochester community and to his spouse, Kay Valentine.
Jane Adler, Eastman School of Music, BM ‘82, MM ‘84
“Paul Burgett was the welcoming hand that greeted me every time I returned for Meliora Weekend.
He would always make some time in his office for us to chat.
He had an open mind that absorbed whatever ideas I brought to our conversation.
He made me feel that ideas mattered. This, I have always thought, was one of the best qualities of an institution of higher learning. And Paul personified those qualities.
I reflect on our times together as joyous and too few.
When I think about reaching out to support the University of Rochester, I always think to reach out to him.
I am sad to learn of his passing and sad to have lost another friend.
My condolences to Lettie and to all who loved him. I count myself among the many who loved Paul Burgett.
Harry DeLigter, Class of 1972
“Paul Burgett was (and it hurts to speak of him in the past tense) the “heart” of the University of Rochester, as one of the remembrances posted here so aptly put it. And he was around in Rochester for half a century, loyal to the institution that more than 50 years ago accepted him as a student. He later could talk about his student days at the Eastman School of Music with humor and self-effacement—how he arrived as a local talent from a town in Missouri, proudly keeping the door to his practice room open so that everyone could hear him, only to close it a few days later to work on improving his instrumental skills in solitude. The experience may have made him change course. Rather than pursuing a career as an instrumentalist, teaching became his passion. He was an engaging and charismatic teacher throughout his life, but, early on, administrative or counseling duties gave his career a new and lasting direction. At Eastman, he became the Dean of Students, successor to the legendary and feared Flora Burton—with ease he stepped into those shoes and helped in many an individual and institutional crisis. When he was whisked off to the University’s River Campus at the end of the 1970s, I protested to Jon Engberg, second-in-command at Eastman at the time, about the loss, but Jon (another man endowed with wisdom and counseling skills) simply pointed to the extraordinary qualities of Paul that should not be reined in at the collegiate level but given a chance to blossom in positions with added and more wide-ranging responsibilities. And so Paul became the adviser and counselor to four UR presidents: Sproull, O’Brien, Jackson, and Seligman. His responsibilities may have changed under different presidents, but, once he had moved to the River Campus, the reporting chain was made clear by his being named a Vice President. He helped defuse crises and conflicts, his negotiating and diplomatic skills were an asset on many occasions. When I met him the last time a few months ago at Barnes & Noble in Pittsford, I inquired how retirement was going for him: Well, he said, he was not really retired but called in to serve again. The MeToo movement had reached the shores of the Genesee River; his conflict–resolving skills would be tested one more time. And he left me with some advice on how to strengthen the fabric of the University in difficult times. I will miss his wisdom and positive spirit.
Jurgen Thym, professor emeritus of musicology
“I'm so very sorry to hear this news. When I first came to campus 20 years ago, I remember meeting him at a student welcoming event. I instantly felt like he was one of those people that anyone, even a new freshman, could have an instant rapport with. I know I'm not alone-- I'm sure thousands of others in the years since then have felt the same. And I loved that he had the Eastman/River Campus connection and deeply appreciated both institutions. UR will not be the same!
Nancy Jaquith Kneiss '97
“I had the pleasure of not only working with Paul but when I heard that he taught the History of Jazz I quickly signed up to take his class. To see him on stage in Strong Auditorium teaching and sometimes "preaching" about jazz was truly a wonder. He loved having an audience and the audience loved him.
We recently had one of our staff members retire after 64 years of service. Somehow Paul found out and came to wish her well. That is just the kind of person that he was...always genuinely caring about others.
Paul helped to shape our University and his presence and guidance moving forward will be greatly missed. Paul we loved you as much as you loved all of us.
Jenni Oliver, Department of Physics and Astronomy / Provost's Office
“Dean Burgett's ability to connect with each and every student on campus was masterful, no matter what their interest or involvement. I am grateful that I got to see him sing "Thriller" with the Yellowjackets (the Vincent Price part!), fire up the first year students before they embarked on their Wilson Day of service in their new community, and lead the traditional songs at the Boars' Head Dinner. Before I left for a semester abroad, he instructed me to order tartufo at Tre Scalini in Rome, which I did not regret. Many people recall him referring to students as "Doc"; I also remember him asking how my book was coming, saying he couldn't wait to read it. There was no book, but he planted the seed that I would have a story to tell or something important to say as I went along my journey into adulthood, and that he cared to hear about it.
Dean Burgett's enthusiasm for and pride in the University of Rochester and its students was contagious. He is part of what I loved and will always remember about my time at the U of R.
Jen Romano Canning '95 (T5)
“It is with great sadness to learn of Paul's passing as I will no longer have an opportunity to communicate with him, albeit fairly infrequent in recent years. It is with great happiness that I knew him and was able to share the joy of such a wonderful man with my 6 yr-old daughter on a UR visit in 2004 and my wife a couple of times in LA and UR. I've met very few people with such a gift of radiance that with even minimal time can be so significant, I feel lucky.
Steve Radell '96
“Paul was a joyous, infectious presence in all my administrative dealings at the University. We had a warm, and mutually-comfortable relationship. I was “the heavy muffin” according to Paul...and, I, in turn, after I was no longer Chairman, referred to him as “the heavy muffin”. Paul had insights that others did not have as a result of his unique roles: teacher, administrator, and counselor to many undergraduates. As a result, he will be missed - unknownly by future Presidents - as much as it is difficult to appreciate “negative space” in art.
You will be missed my friend.
Bob Goergen, Class of 1960, Board of Trustees chairman, currently Trustee Emeritus
“Paul Burgett was a bright light during my years as a graduate student at the Eastman School of Music. Among his many gifts were enthusiasm, generosity, and the ability to make anyone and everyone feel special. I am saddened to learn of his passing, and I send my sincere condolences to his family, colleagues, and friends.
Richard Elliott MM 84 DMA 90, Tabernacle Choir, Salt Lake City, Utah
“I met Paul Burgett in the spring of 2014 at East High School. Paul was visiting my colleague's classroom across the hallway, where students make prescription glasses for other kids across the district. My colleague, Logan, brought him over and introduced me to Paul. Within minutes, I was struck by Paul's optimism, wisdom, and frankness. He really seemed at right at home sharing his point of view. He spoke as though he'd known me for several years, not several minutes.
During this first conversation, I was particularly struck by Paul's 50 year assessment of Rochester - he loved the community but knew it had considerable room for improvement in how it treated my East High students and families. I had to know more and learn more from him. So, I arranged to meet with Paul over breakfast. I took (and take) great delight that our points of view had significant overlap. Our shared Catholic and urban backgrounds helps explain some of this overlap.
Paul and I met a few times a year to talk of the news of the day - especially as it related to East High or the University of Rochester. Mostly, it was to get together with someone who wanted the world to be an even better place and who worked to make it so. Paul was the first to admit that Rochester has a long way to go to achieve fairness for everyone, but he was so connected to and invested in this simple and lofty endeavor.
We all have our own private recollections about Paul Burgett, but everyone who even had a brief meeting and heard his booming baritone voice and saw his youthful flash in his eyes when he smiled knew what it was to feel truly important in this world because Paul Burgett made you feel like 100% of his attention and energy was directed to you. We should all aspire to so many of his qualities.
I will miss my good friend and kindred spirit. But, my goodness, I am so much better for having known - if only for a few years - such a gentle and strong force for good in this world.
Paul Conrow, teacher at East High School
“I only met Paul once in my 4 years of UR, but in that one encounter I left feeling empowered to accomplish whatever my heart desired.
Jonathan Hovey '96
“Paul was so kind to this disoriented freshman and became a dear friend and mentor. It is amazing, but not surprising what he achieved and I am so glad that so many were able to experience his joy, energy, passion, compassion and infinite dedication.
It was a great honor to have know him.
Terry L. Zipay, Eastman School of Music Class of 1969
“It may seem a cliché, but Paul Burgett truly was “one in a million” and anyone who knew him, heard him speak, or even just tell a story, was a better for it! I consider it a profound blessing in my life to have worked with him in several different capacities over the last 23 years, to have been mentored and inspired by his intelligence, wit and insight and to have been repeatedly lifted and warmed by his gentle goodness and sincere compassion for all.
This page and its moving remembrances provide compelling proof of the multi-generational membership in “Burgett’s Army” of those who will be ever better for having dwelled for even a brief time in “Mr. Burgett’s Neighborhood!” It also brings to mind a quote: “The full measure of a person is to be found, not in the person himself or even in their ideas and works, but in the colors and textures that come alive in others because of them.” By this or any measure that matters, Paul was a giant.
Thanks for everything, my friend and guide, well done!
P.S. I responded with the following to Navin Ram’s touching tribute (above) and am pasting it here on behalf of the many thousands of international students who will never forget their orientation welcome from Dean Burgett: “I completely understand your longing right now for a communal U of R (and Burgett-esque) bear hug and wish I could transport myself to Chennai right now to deliver it! Frankly, I felt the same as I was wandered around a River Campus on Friday that felt like the Twilight Zone. I found myself drawn, almost involuntarily, throughout the day to places like Wilson Commons, Wallis Hall, the UR flag flying at half-mast, the Burgett Intercultural Center, . . . expecting to stumble onto some student-lead candle-light vigil in process or at least find some makeshift memorial shrine that had been constructed to honor a fallen friend/hero. Instead (and perhaps fittingly), the campus was abuzz with the recently arrived class of 2022, all of them oblivious to the tragi c loss this community had just experienced -- and of their own loss to never be on the receiving end of that unsurpassed and impactful Dean Burgett orientation welcome (which I heard dozens of times and NEVER grew tired of!).”
Cary Jensen, Counsel and Director of International Relations, Services and Advocacy
“Dean Burgett was my favorite person at the U of R. He was truly dedicated to getting to know the students and to making the school a better place. He was a treasure, and is gone too soon.
Lisa Gotkin, Class of 1991
“Paul was a most admirable human being....practically perfect as Molly Poppins would say. He was smart and wise and had a warm heart for all he encountered. It was my privilege to know him and consider him a good friend.
Sue Stewart, retired General Counsel and Sr. Vice President
“The brightness of his smile, the warmth of his greeting, and a kind word for every student and alumnus is how I'll remember Dean Burgett. Thank you for inspiring me, guiding me and being an inspiration to so many UR students. Your spirit is remembered, and your legacy lives on in the lives of every graduate. Thank you!
Laura D. Wingate, Arts & Sciences Class of 1994
“Paul Burgett was one of the first people I met as a nervous freshman on the river campus. He connected with students easily, putting all of us at ease while providing inspiration and mentorship. He remains a role model to me, and I aspire to treat people in a way that makes them feel special, like he did. One of my lasting memories of him is a piece of advice he gave me early on in my college career. He asked the group of us if we flossed, and after some of us looked down or hesitated, he told us to floss. Daily. Not just after eating popcorn. He said it with humor, at a time when the thing we college freshman probably needed the most was a gentle nudge to take care of ourselves. The advice was totally unrelated to my studies, but it was probably one of the most important pieces of advice I got in college. I still think of him when I floss!
Tanya Anderson, Class of 1995
“As a member of the upcoming Meliora 50th anniversary class of the Eastman School of Music, I can assure that I speak for all of our classmates when I express our sense of great loss with Paul's passing. As a freshman, while his major instrument was the violin, it was clear that he had a great gift for organizational work and inspiring others to "get it done". Later, his passion and interest in music showed itself in his deep teaching abilities that embraced a variety of musical subjects. I have always looked forward to the many moments of life in Rochester when my path crossed with Paul. It often seemed like he was everywhere- on TV, giving lectures, talking with students and faculty! I was thrilled to hear the Mu Phi Epsilon "Musician of the Year" concert in May 2018 which honored Paul. Paul selected all the musicians himself. The performance was the very best, most exciting and artistic program that I have ever heard in Kilbourn Hall. What a great joy and passion he shared with his family for travel! All of his colleagues from the 50th Eastman reunion class at Meliora 2018 will all be thinking of him and sending him our remembrances of a an exciting life of service, well-lived but too short.
Ruth Cahn, retired faculty Eastman Community Music School
“It is amazing how well his tribute captured him. I spent my undergraduate years at U of R, and he is my most beautiful memory. Somehow, he always knew my name, asked me about my sport, and created a sense of comfort for me. At times of stress I found myself in his office, no appointment, just because his door was open. It amazes me that some 20 years later, his conversations, his overall genuine happiness still resonates with me.
Heather DeLaurentis (Clark), Class of 1997
“The UofR has lost one of its most valuable assets: Paul Burgett--a great teacher, leader and human being--a treasure.
Ed Colodny '48, life trustee
“Dean Burgett - You inspired me as a student with your passion for learning and your joyful love of life. As I reflect on your passing, I consider myself lucky that the worlds sweet serendipity allowed me one last privilege when my family and I crossed your path on the rooftops of Santiago last February. You exuded that same zest for life and without a moments hesitation replied, “Tina Bucci”. Just like 25 year’s before, you brought an immediate smile to my face and my heart. You immediately engaged my children in conversation about what we were doing in Chile, about their vision for the two weeks of travel and their interests in life. My children were struck by your interest and clear generosity of soul. Thank you for all that you have given to students over the years, thank you for giving me such wonderful memories and an indelible image of what it really means to inspire. My sincerest condolences to your family.
Christina “Tina Bucci” Bucci-Rechtweg, Class of 1993 (BA), Class of 1997 (MD)
“Paul was one of the first people I met when I joined the faculty at Nazareth College. He was teaching in the Music Department, and I was upstairs in the art wing. I never saw Paul that he didn't have a big smile. He was genuinely warm and kind, a positive force in our academic community and beyond. He believed in human dignity and civility, and I know that he changed many lives for the better. I'll miss him greatly, and I'll never forget him.
My deep and sincere condolences to Kay, Paul's family, and his many close friends.
Lynn Duggan, professor emerita at Nazareth College
“Dean Paul Burgett was the first person that I would describe to others as my mentor. I feel honored to have gotten to spend what time I had with him. He challenged many people's idea of what it means to be successful, by being an exemplar in those activities which truly provide meaning in this world. There is still so much to learn from him and the kind, generous, and fun life he lived. I am consoled in my grieving because I know it fundamentally stems from the desire to have more from Dean Burgett. I instead feel gratitude that he lived, that he contributed so much of his time to the University and the Rochester community, and that I was fortunate enough to get to know him personally.
I will listen to jazz for the rest of my life and I will continue to reflect on both Dean Burgett's greatness and his humanity. I send my condolences to all of those who are grieving, particularly his close friends, colleagues, and his family.
All my love,
Grant Dever, Former SA President '16, T5'17; iZone Community Manager
“Paul was an inspiration and great man. He truly gave so much to the university and will be missed.
Aaron Haimovitz '98
“Celebrating Dean Paul Burgett encompasses a broad duality of emotions. His life, spirit, authenticity and warmth are truly gifts to be celebrated - well beyond the traditional hyperbole that so often accompany these tributes. He was a larger-than-life individual who was more excited about knowing and helping people than virtually anyone I have ever met.
At the same time, particularly in the challenging times we live in, I am profoundly sad at his passing. He was both a generous man and a pragmatic realist, no doubt shaped by his life and experiences. For decades, I scheduled an annual "checkup call" (via Beverly) with him to take his counsel on my career and life. The were some of the most meaningful and eagerly anticipated calls of my life.
To his family and friends, I offer my deepest condolences - you know this already, but the world was a better place for all of us as a result of his being in it and his star and will shine brightly on us for generations.
John Sparrow, '86, music performance, Eastman School of Music
“I am very fortunate to have been in the same room with Mr. Burgett, to listen to his wonderful voice, to be uplifted by his generous and loving spirit and to be energized by his sense of commitment to our University and to our country. I mourn his passing greatly. I fear we must wait a long time before someone of Paul's talent, spirit and stature graces the halls of the University of Rochester again.
David Rodgers '83
“I have known Paul Burgett for over thirty years and I can hardly come to terms with this loss. It is as if I had always known him and regarded him above all as a friend. Friendship and collegiality were one thing for Paul and this particular trait of his personality made our interaction unique and forever attached to the memory of his warmth, enthusiasm, and genuine interest in and wonder about people and their overall human gifts and potential. Our common Italian background was one point of connection between us: always evoked in its historical specificity–Paul would often talk to me about the story of his family—and always cherished. But there were many other shared interests and experiences that I will never forget. Paul was my primary supporter and collaborator within the University President’s Office when I organized, in 2007, a public commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. on the 40th anniversary of his historic speech at the Atlanta Ebenezer Bapt ist Church. He was a marvelous performer in one of my “Boccaccio Fests” in which members of the university participated to a dramatized reading of some of the most exhilarating stories of this 14th-century Italian writer (I would love to share images and recordings of that event with his family). Whenever I communicated to him a professional achievement, he was the first to celebrate, congratulate, and spread the word. His encouragement was always for me both a reward and an incentive. This was also the case for my two daughters Silvia and Giulia, both UR alumnae, and of my husband Renato, fellow UR faculty member in Engineering. For all of us, the University of Rochester will never be the same without Paul, but the difference he made in our lives is our enduring tribute to his legacy. With our heartfelt condolences, Donatella Stocchi, Renato, Silvia, and Giulia Perucchio
Donatella Stocchi-Perucchio, Associate Professor of Italian, Department of Modern Languages and Cultures
“For the duration of my graduate studies I had the tremendous privilege of serving as Paul Burgett's teaching assistant for his well-loved "History of Jazz" course. I now realize how spoiled I was to have had the privilege of working so closely with him throughout all those years. Of all the professors I encountered throughout grad school, many of whom were fantastic, he was the only one who substantially altered my perspective with respect to the personal relationship I have with the Black American art form known as jazz. I will forever be indebted to him for that. I am also thankful for the gentle yet constant pressure he applied in order to spur me towards finally earning my DMA. I count myself lucky to have had Paul Burgett as a mentor and, especially, to have called him a friend. I owe so much to him!
My most sincere condolences go to his partner, Kay Valentine, his secretary, Kim Truebger, as well as to his family, his friends, and to the countless students whose lives he touched.
Ben Bishop, Eastman School of Music MM '10, DMA '15
“Whenever I thought about the University of Rochester, I couldn't help but visualize Dean Burgett laughing and smiling and welcoming all of us with open arms. His cheerfulness was contagious. Whatever problems you were going through, like the time I was placed on Academic Probation, he always made you feel that it wasn't the end of the world. You knew that you'd somehow make it. He was just filled with so much energy and goodwill and it's difficult accepting that he's really gone.
Thank you, Dean Burgett, for your love, support, and commitment to bringing the Rochester community together for over 50 years. In my eyes, you were Rochester!
Reginald Anthony '93
“It was my pleasure meeting Dr. Burgett at an alumni event some years ago. I had been asked to speak at this event which he moderated. He was not at Rochester during my years there. I so envied the host of young, enthusiastic, very accomplished alumni present who thrived (according to them) because he inspired them. Their genuine love and admiration for him was apparent. What a loss to the College community. Hopefully, his legacy will be carried on.
Rochelle Watson, alumna
“Paul Burgett was a friend and ally of anthropology. He was a strong advocate of cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding. Paul's commitment to the University and the greater Rochester community was inspiring. I valued his advice and remain grateful for his collegiality.
Robert Foster, Professor of Anthropology
“I want to share my awe and gratitude for the life and light of the amazing Paul Burgett. Paul was a true model of humanity and huge champion for the arts on our campus and in our community. I had the pleasure and honor of getting to know Paul while working together to make a presence for the UR at the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival, to make a presence for the Fringe in Rochester, and as the Institute for the Performing Arts was originating here on the river campus. Paul was forever encouraging people to take risks and to explore wild creativity, and he also encouraged me as I navigated through new leadership roles in dance and the performing arts. He did this with that terrific laugh we will always remember, and his contagious, reassuring smile. He loved life, arts, people, community, equality, and the University, and I am so blessed to have been able to get to know him over the past 7 years or so. It's hard to imagine the University without his enthusia stic and comprehensive knowledge of its history and its known and sometimes hidden talents. The Institute for the Performing Arts will remember Paul and celebrate him through our work as we move forward with his spirit of eager, passionate and charismatic zest for all things good.
With gratitude to you Paul.
Missy Pfohl Smith, Director, Institute for Performing Arts, Dance
“I met Paul Burgett during the late 1970s and added him as a senior member of my staff, together with Jon Engberg and John Santuccio, as Eastman's dean of students. He quickly proved himself a very effective and able colleague, popular and well respected by all Eastman students, taking a leading role in Eastman's Willie Stargell tour of 1983, and going on to play a leading role on the River Campus, as did Wendell Brase and Robert Kraus. Jon Engberg and Chuck Krusenstjerna playing more sustained roles at Gibbs Street, all contributing central roles over many years in the support of the nation's most talented music students, faculty, and graduates. The near simultaneous loss this past summer of Jon Engberg, Paul Burgett, and my dear wife Carol has reminded us all to treasure every day, even when it snows!
Robert Freeman, director, Eastman School of Music, 1972-96
“Paul was a long-time friend, confidant, and mentor. He was the inaugural UAA Voting Delegate from the University of Rochester and served in that capacity for more than a decade. During that time he chaired the UAA Executive Committee and oversaw the initial structuring of the Association Office at the University of Rochester. He was an invaluable colleague and provided a wealth of support to me during the early years of my tenure with the UAA. He went out of his way to make time in his schedule so that the two of us could meet one-on-one every few weeks. He did this because he knew the geographic isolation inherent in my job did not afford me the opportunity to interact informally with colleagues on a regular basis -- "to just walk down the hall, stick my head in the door, and ask how things were going, or what do you think about this or that." That meant a lot to me.
I also worked closely with him in my volunteer role as a fraternity alumnus and chapter advisor. He was always supportive of alumni and undergraduates and always interested in how we could partner with each other for the betterment of the University.
Paul had an innate ability to make others feel good, no matter what the circumstances. His wit, good humor, and wise counsel will be deeply missed. He was a true friend.
Dick Rasmussen, Alumnus and Staff Member
“Paul Burgett played an extreme role in the development of African-American men at the University of Rochester. His efforts to further develop the University community, and his efforts to develop our community will not be forgotten.
Thank you for everything you've done.
Eugene Nichols III, President of the Minority Male Leadership Association (2018-19)
“I attended the public memorial service for Paul Burgett, I was never prouder to be associated with the University [for 57 years overall] than at that service. This was the UR at its BEST! Thank you. You captured Paul and his spirit beautifully. And, thank you for incorporating Kay Valentine's remembrances in this public service.
My last two memories of Paul Burgett- standing in a group with him at the first student demonstration for Black Lives Matter at the corner by the Elmwood Bridge in the cold. Participating in his offer to the University to bus those interested out to a panel at Ganondagan State Historic Site comprised of a young Muslim man, a young Native American woman, and a transgender woman- who shared their personal stories of being who they were and the challenges they encountered, who then joined all of us at tables to talk while we "broke bread" together. He exclaimed that this kind of thing should happen more often.
Mattie Schmitt, alumna, retired faculty member
“ Paul, along with a small group of Eastman School musicians came to Zion Episcopal Church in Palmyra, N.Y. where I was the soprano soloist and was also attending Pal-Mac HIgh School. The year was 1965, and I didn't realize I would be forever indebted to this "magical group" of strangers who would introduce me to the wonderful world of music at both Hochstein Music School and Eastman School of Music. Paul was always kind, supportive, and generous with a singer who knew nothing of the musical world. We had stayed in touch over the years and met often at Eastman gatherings. He was a truly gifted person who sought only to be genuinely interested in EVERYONE. I do miss him very much.
Cecile Saine, Senior Voice Associate ECMS, BM in Voice 1972, Performer's Certificate 1973
“What a wonderful tribute! As the niece of Jazz musician Gilbert O'Shaughnessy, who played clarinet with Peck Kelly's Bad Boys, Jimmy Mahoney's Joys and Jack Teagarden's Jazz bands, among others, I can only imagine the great welcome and the great Jam Session in Heaven upon the arrival of Paul Burgett. Surely the great work and all the kindnesses he bestowed upon this world followed him into the arms of the angels.
Marie O'Shaughnessy Martin, Grandparent of vocal performance student at Eastman
“Dean Burgett's class began as mine ended, and that in-between moment afforded me the privilege of conversation, and laughter, with his positive and powerful presence. Friends and I would often encounter him at a favorite neighborhood eatery, and he greeted us with joyful warmth, and zest for life. I always felt better after an encounter with Dean Burgett, and I am grateful for the gift of his enduring energy.
E.V. Flanagan '13, Alumnus / Administrative Support
“The late Māori writer and activist Bruce Stewart once said, “we need heroes who leave threads for the rest of us to follow.” Paul Burgett, the longtime, deep-rooted University of Rochester vice president who passed away last month, was such a hero who left behind a number of prescient threads for all of us, especially me, to follow.
I am fortunate to have known Paul for 24 years, exactly the last third of his life. During that time, he was my advisor, mentor, teacher, confidant, and, most significantly, friend—and often all at the same time. For nearly the entire time I have known him, I (like many other UR graduates) referred to him as Dean Burgett, as a reference to the first time that I met him in his role as the Dean of Students at the University of Rochester. His office was on the top floor of the I.M. Pei-designed Wilson Commons. When I sought him out, I was an untethered first year undergraduate in need to guidance.
Like Paul, I was what he would call a “Regional Treasure.” I had grown up playing soccer in the suburbs of Rochester. I was, as he put it, a “big fish in a small pond” who, after arriving at UR, became a “small fish in a big[ger] pond.” It was not a put-down. Rather, his comments were a statement of fact. Ultimately, Paul helped me to become comfortable with the idea that I often exist on the “margins,” which he noted is an exciting place to be.
Paul’s secretary at the time was Beverly Dartt, a compassionate and extremely proficient assistant, a dog lover, and friendly, kind, and helpful person to me. She was the first person I met when I climbed the steps to Paul’s office. She arranged a meeting for me with Paul that would ultimately shape and profoundly impact the rest of my time at UR and beyond. In fact, Paul single-handedly kept me at the University of Rochester after I quit the soccer team, broke up with my girlfriend, was failing Calculus, and my beloved Miniature Schnauzer passed away.
For me, and perhaps thousands of other students, Paul was most successful at explaining what college is for. A skilled orator, Paul gave a number of public lectures that UR thankfully recorded. I have for many years of teaching at Monroe Community College (MCC) and elsewhere used the 2013 YouTube recording of Paul’s talk regarding the “The Fiery Furnace,” a presentation he had given in various forms for decades. Because of Paul’s words, students in the college orientation classes I teach have grappled with the following concepts: that higher education is about the “confrontation with ideas” and the “production of knowledge” and that happiness should not be a person’s primary concern. (Students at MCC especially are routinely taken aback by Paul’s decision to take a course in existentialism as an undergraduate.)
By discussing what college is for, he was laying out his views regarding critical thinking. “Accessing and apprehending the data—in some cases creating the data. We call that research. That’s the first thing you gotta do here,” stated Paul. “Two, you have to develop skills of analysis. You’ve gotta know how to take that thing apart and put it back together again. … You have to learn the mechanics of the art.” (Before continuing, Paul commented, “I don’t think of my life in terms of regrets.”) He then stated that the “third thing you have to do is learn to express yourself.” He drove home that crucial last step of critical thinking: informed action, “by expressing what you know.”
But his most important comments were concerning two “heresies,” as he called them: one regarding a student’s major during college and another regarding future employment. As Paul would frequently admonish students, “your major doesn’t matter.” His bottom line was that “Passion and ability drive ambition,” a phrase that Paul would direct members of the audience to repeat with gusto. In other words, the things about which we are passionate and want to pursue, coupled with the skills we gain as learners, are what, Paul argues, drive our motivations and eventual successes.
About employment after college: “Our hope for you, after all of this magnificent education (and don’t tell your parents I said this, please)…,” Paul stated. “Our hope for you,” he whispered, “is that you never have a job.” He smiled the entire time. Paul firmly felt that students should view the work that they do not as a “j.o.b.” but rather as “work” that is an extension of their passions and interests. As he stated elsewhere, a person should define her life and work by the “capacity to invent,” “willingness to work,” and “a little bit of luck … (Luck is being at the right place at the right time and knowing it).”
I encourage anyone reading this tribute to listen to Paul’s words in not only his “fiery furnace” talk but also his brief remarks during the dedication of the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center and his wonderful commencement address to Eastman students in 2015. He cared much about UR, its students, and the university’s history. He was “Mr. University of Rochester,” as far as I am concerned, and often sang the school’s alma mater, “The Genesee,” during public and on-campus events.
During his public and in-class lectures, Paul was expressive, organized, and profoundly influential. His height, his ever-moving fingers, and his inquisitive—pensive, even—mannerisms, such as scratching or moving his head, adjusting his pants, or simply motioning into the ether, were part and parcel of the man. His clapping or rubbing his hands together, extending his pointer fingers, holding his hands together, slapping his leg, or stomping his feet was a great and joyful sight to see. Google “Paul Burgett” to see photographs of his hands caught in motion.
Most significantly, Paul chose his words carefully. Indeed, he was a person for whom words had meaning, as clichéd as that sounds. “Words have power to mould men’s thinking, to canalize their feeling, to direct their willing and acting…. Conduct and character are largely determined by the nature of the words we currently use to discuss ourselves and the world around us,” Aldous Huxley wrote. I know of no better speaker, interviewee, nor conversationalist than Paul Burgett. He truly had the gift of gab. He was the physical embodiment of Huxley’s ideas.
His “Music of Black Americans” course, in which I was enrolled during the spring semester of my freshman year, changed the direction of my studies. Although I had many exceptional teachers while at UR (Russell Peck, Dick Kaeuper, Tom Hahn, Karen Fields, and Stewart Weaver, among others), Paul’s class is one for which I retained so much content. Black Swan Records. Howard University. The Harlem Renaissance. James Weldon Johnson. The World’s Columbian Exposition and the St. Louis World’s Fair. Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle. The towering figure that was Paul Robeson. We spoke often about W.E.B. Du Bois, whom Paul considered “one of the greatest intellectual minds of the twentieth century.” I learned what a red light districts were. We discussed the many “precursors to Jazz” (African drumming, African American spirituals, call and response [a technique Paul used regularly in the classroom and in public], minstrelsy, Ragtime, and Blues, among others), most of which were barely mentioned, much to Paul’s (and my) dismay, in Ken Burns’s lengthy 10-part documentary series, Jazz.
Paul opened my eyes to the writings of Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, Carter G. Woodson, Zora Neale Hurston, and Amiri Baraka, on whom Paul had in part written his dissertation, as well as to the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans. Off the top of my head, I still remember learning about and listening to the music of giants such as James Reese Europe, Jelly Roll Morton, Bessie Smith, Lead Belly, Josephine Baker, John Lee Hooker, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr., Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Stevie Wonder, BeBe and CeCe Winans, Wynton Marsalis, and so many more. He taught me that the “BB” in B.B. King stood for Blues Boy. We listened to Billie Holiday sing the haunting “Strange Fruit,” a poem that Paul pointed out was written by a Jewish American. I still remember him reading Dudley Randall’s poem, “Booker T. and W.E.B.,” among many others, to our class. He recounted stories about meeting Marian Anderson, as well as specifically about her birthdate, since the day she gave never matched her real birthdate. I recall his talks regarding Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan—the “Black Nightingales,” about whom he frequently lectured in public.
All of these musicians and many more whom I have forgotten were Paul’s friends, even if he never met them. I would like to think that heaven is a little more melodious with Paul’s arrival.
* * * * *
I have two memories from my time working with Paul during my undergraduate years that will likely never leave me—and that deserve mention.
The first occurred soon after I met Paul. I had just walked out of a meeting with English professor Jerold Ramsey regarding NEH Younger Scholar awards. I arranged a meeting with Paul to discuss the possibility of working with him on a research project regarding Ragtime musician Scott Joplin. Knowing that I was deeply unprepared for what I was proposing, and likely would not become a Younger Scholar in my freshman year, Paul sent me to other faculty members—in the hope, I think, that I might disappear. When those teachers stated that Paul was the perfect and most knowledgeable person to help me, I returned to his office. He eventually accepted my appeals. I worked to write the application. He edited it again and again. And Beverly, his secretary, typed up the application and filled out the various forms on my behalf. In fall 1994, I sent my application to NEH. In spring 1995, I learned that I had received the grant and spent that summer reading, researching, and working with Paul on an essay regarding Joplin and his ideals of musical literacy, especially in the libretto of his opera, Treemonisha.
What is most significant for me is that because of Paul’s mentorship, I became a better writer. In fact, I would argue that he not only taught me how to write but also, most importantly, taught me how to think critically. If I am a decent writer or communicator at any level, it is almost entirely because of the assistance that Paul afforded me as I worked on that essay. The many rough drafts that Paul made “bloody” by his corrections, clarifications, and conciseness helped me fully consider the “process” of writing over the “product,” concepts that I have used for the last 20 years with my students. Paul later helped to pay for my research and speaking trips to Sedalia and St. Louis, Missouri.
The second experience with Paul is one filled with sorrow and is a chapter that UR has arguably made concerted efforts to forget during the last 22 years. In March 1996, my classmate Nicole Wan died while volunteering for a UR Medical Center research project. As her many friends debated how to get to her funeral in New York City, I reached out to Paul. Although he was not likely doing anything out of the ordinary, given the university’s role in Nicole’s death, Paul was quick to obtain two passenger vans for a number of her friends of to travel to New York City to witness her funeral and burial. When I picked up the vans from Cortese on West Henrietta Road, I only had to show my driver’s license. Paul (and I assume Beverly) handled the rest. I appreciate him for his immediate action.
* * * * *
Paul and I had many one-on-one conversations during the last 24 years. He shared a number of private experiences with me, including the time that he was a candidate for president of a local college and his feeling fortunate that he was able to have a work life that he felt was not only lucky but was not a job. He also felt that he fell into the different employment opportunities that he had at, for example, at Greece School District, the Hochstein School of Music, and Nazareth College, as well as at Eastman and UR’s River Campus. I knew better. He had the skills, temperament, and leadership qualities necessary to succeed in nearly any role.
He was a trusted advisor and confidant. As a dean of students at Eastman and on the River Campus, and later as an administrator who had the ear and trust of at least two university presidents, and supported presidents and UR Board of Trustees, Paul was a compassionate and steady leader for decades. I learned about his divorce many years ago—an event that we spent a long time discussing—after I shared with him that my own marriage to a UR student he knew was ending. I never heard Paul disparage nor talk ill nor gossip about anyone other than President Trump, by the way.
We also talked about seemingly mundane topics. He once shared stories about his appreciation for squirrels but also their destructiveness. We spoke about the attitudes and actions of cats. He shared some ideas about interior design and paint colors. I remember that he went on and on about the television show Frasier, which he seemed to have stumbled across and thought was extremely funny. It was several years before I started watching the show, but as reruns. He was delighted years ago to purchase a Subaru (he was on his second Suburu, I think) and told me all about it. We talked about the Rochester Athletic Club, the Rotary, Wegmans, Tops, and Mann’s Jewelers, which repaired and strengthened his ring, which has a Greek key design, I think. Our many conversations often took us to places where we both felt free to discuss anything.
After the birth of my daughter, we talked about education and the comments about education that his father used to make. We even spoke about politics, most recently about Trump, whom Paul referred to as an “illiterate.” I know that Paul was deeply disturbed about a number of the president’s policies, most particularly concerning international students. No matter the topic, he was a trusted friend, even when I knew he was not nearby.
We spoke during almost annual meetings about the courses he was teaching, including the Music of Black Americans; Musical Adventures: Too Hip a Trip to Miss, from Bach to Coolio; and the History of Jazz. He told me about the days he set aside to pursue research in Rare Books and Special Collections. In recent years, he continued to pursue his studies regarding the issues, concerns, and people he still found interesting, such as UR history and the Black Nightingales. And he often shared his knowledge with me by sending me links to stories. For example, soon after the boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter passed away, Paul was quick to send me a web link regarding Carter with the note: “Remembering your deep interest in … Carter, I noted his recent death with thoughts of your great interest.”
Of course, his annual travels (which later included trips between semesters to places such as New York City) with Kay, his wife, formed a launching off point for nearly all of our interactions. He spoke about the efforts to document their travels, using the best photographs from the trips for scrapbooks that Kay pulled together. I remember a story he told about travelling in Northern India and coming across a car with a University of Rochester sticker on it (it turned out to be the father of a UR student). I remember the time that he was travelling and various people with whom he came in contact thought he was “Egyptian.” Greece was always in the background of nearly all conversations, as Paul kept a photograph of the bluest of waters off the coast of Mykonos, Santorini, or some other place in his office.
That he and Kay travelled to more than 60 countries on six continents is incredible. I know of no other individual more widely travelled and interested in people and cultures than Paul. I think that Paul knew and believed deeply, in the words of Mark Twain, that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I actively listened and looked forward to our meetings and lunches, which generally occurred at his office in Wilson Commons, and later in Wallis Hall, the Genesee Valley Club, or in local eateries.
Paul always had a great amount of wisdom to share, from the simplest (such as clearing out unnecessary materials such as multiple, dusty drafts of his dissertation—Kay helped him to get rid of clutter, as they prepared to move from Corn Hill to East Avenue) to the most pressing, such as how to deal with parents. Paul was fond of pointing out that a person’s parents will always be her parents, even as she gets older, even after they have passed away. He always had a grin as he told me about how, upon visiting his parents, he immediately was made to feel as if he was a child again.
Whatever story he told, it was with a robust sense of humor, however. His having to learn to play the tuba in the Army Reserve Band during the Vietnam War is just one such story. His direction of the Rochester Vuvuzela Chorus during the 2010 World Cup is outstanding. There are many others. When I once told him that he looked as if he had lost weight, he told me his secret, which had nothing to do with dieting. He pointed to his mouth and told me that he kept his mouth closed before he started to feel full. He was always able to provide such straightforward advice, but with a heap of humor.
He could be tough when he needed to be, however. When I recently applied for a two jobs for which Paul felt I was unqualified and for which he knew I would not be hired, he encouraged me to rethink my approach. I pushed back. He wrote the letters of support anyway. He was right. I was not hired. I had wasted several hours on those applications. He knew better. He has always known better. That I would receive a PhD in history was foretold by Paul many years ago.
I always wished that he had written a number of books: one regarding his travels with Kay, another for parents sending their children off to college, and another with his words of advice for undergraduates (an expansion of “The Fiery Furnace” lecture). I think that he could have written a book about Black musicians about whom he knew so much. A new version of the classic book by African-American musicologist Eileen Southern, from which Paul taught, was needed, it seemed to me. I wished that all of his class lectures—not just the 12 assembled on UR’s “Remembering Paul Burgett” YouTube site—were recorded.
I also wish I had more time to talk with Paul about the Trump presidency; AJ Carson (who earned his PhD last year by creating a hip-hop album); the film Rumble, which chronicles Rock ‘N’ Roll’s American Indian roots; and the Take a Knee Movement and the National Anthem. I meant to ask him about the many incarnations of the folk hymn “Glory, Hallelujah”; what he thought about Louis Armstrong as depicted in the excellent book, Satchmo Blows Up the World; and his sense of the multiple overlaps and influences between Sam Cooke and Bob Dylan, especially regarding “A Change is Gonna Come.” I wish I could have spoken more with him about his thoughts and concerns regarding race, teaching, and other pertinent matters.
After I learned in late May/early June that he was sick, he shared that his “days and weeks have been filled with medical tests and interventions.” His news was a punch in the gut. Through my tears, I immediately turned to advice he has shared in numerous places over the years: “Seek out satisfaction in life, rather than happiness. No one can be happy all of the time; indeed, life never affords anyone that luxury. Satisfaction, on the other hand, is the real barometer of your quality of life; it is having enough. To leave the dinner table full, but not painfully so.” His words have offered me some level of solace.
He regularly pushed back against the idea that happiness is the goal in life. Stated Paul, “Life is too complex to reduce its objective to something like happiness. Because life has pain, it has sorrow, it has disappointment, it has failure, and none of us is immune to any of those things. Happiness is like a butterfly. A butterfly flutters around me and occasionally will treat me by landing on my shoulder, but I can’t own it. Happiness, whatever that word means, is not a constant.” I will forever be sharing his insights with others.
At the end of the day, Paul is one of the few people who actually knew and “got” me. He listened actively to me. He always made me feel as if he was genuinely interested in me. I believe he was, as I was in him. I will miss his booming voice, his kind embrace, his unyielding curiosity, and his friendship. I will miss him sharing his passions and compassion with me.
I hope to be a sliver of the person—the compassionate, imaginative, inventive, and inspirational person—that he was; continue to show others the influence he has had on me; and pick up, share, and lengthen the threads that Paul Burgett—Dean Burgett—left for all of us.
Joel Helfrich, ‘98
To share a tribute to Paul Burgett or write a condolence, please use the form below. Your message will be added to others featured on this page. Thank you for sharing.