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portrait of Paul Burgett with heading REMEMBERING PAUL BURGETT 1946-2018

About Paul Burgett


Memorial Services

In Pictures

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In Pictures

Photos and video capture only some of the moments and memories from an amazing career as a student, teacher, scholar, mentor, musician, leader, and friend.

University of Rochester photos / J. Adam Fenster (unless noted)

a young Paul Burgett plays the violin

MUSICAL LIFE: A talented violinist from a young age, Burgett came to the attention of a violist for the St. Louis Symphony, who recognized Burgett's talents and offered to teach him. (photo courtesy of Paul Burgett)

Paul Burgett playing the violin during his teaching days

MUSICIAN & TEACHER: Over the course of his career, Burgett taught music at the Greece Central School District, Nazareth College of Rochester, and the University. (photo courtesy of Paul Burgett)

Paul Burgett with his sisters and brother at a family wedding

ELDEST SIBLING: The oldest of six children born to musical parents, Burgett grew up with his sisters, Maggie, Lettie ’71, Mary, and Cathy, and his brother, Peter. (photo courtesy of Paul Burgett)

Paul BUrgett on stage outside, leading student singing groups

COLLEGIAL CONDUCTOR: A regular at University and alumni functions, Burgett often led the gatherings in the singing of "The Genesee," the University’s alma mater. As an unofficial historian, he instructed the audience that the tradition was to sing only the first and third verses, but admitted the reasons why were shrouded in mystery.

Paul BUrgett in graduation robes is hugged by the Rocky yellowjacket mascot

BELOVED FIGURE: Burgett eschewed the label of “administrator” in describing his roles at the Unviersity. He was widely beloved among alumni and students for his gregarious and generous personality. (University of Rochester photo / Brandon Vick)

Paul Burgett and Rich Feldman laughing on stage at convocation

PARTNERSHIP: “‘Dean Burgett’ touched the lives of thousands of students and of many of us among the faculty and staff as well,” said University President Richard Feldman in a tribute to Burgett, who worked together often when Feldman was dean of the College. “Paul accomplished what we all strive for: He leaves the University a better institution and Rochester a richer community for his presence.”

Paul Burgett gestures while giving a speech on stage in front of a large group of students

FORGED IN FIRE: In his signature presentation, “The Fiery Furnace,” Burgett welcomed students to campus and told them about the journey on which they were embarking. Undergraduate education is about the “confrontation with ideas, a process that’s sometimes fun, but more often hard, soul-searing. It’s like stepping into a furnace: hot, intense, at times terrifying. But you will step out of that furnace strong, tempered like steel.”

It’s like stepping into a furnace, he tells them: hot, intense, at times terrifying. “But you will step out of that furnace strong, tempered like steel.”

And then he makes a promise: “We will not abandon you. We will never abandon you.”


Gateways Music Festival

Burgett Intercultural Center Dedication

Eastman School of Music 2015 Commencement Address

Paul Burgett Presents: A Brief History of the University of Rochester

Paul Burgett sitting on the floor with a circle of students

WILL THERE BE PIZZA? “Eleven months a year, if a student group said, 'We're having pizza at 11 o'clock at night; can you make it?' Paul would be there—even if he had an 8 a.m. meeting with the president,” said Logan Hazen, an associate professor at the Warner School and former director of residential life.

Paul Burgett teaching History of Jazz, standing in front of a classroom screen that reads JAZZ IS AMERICAN MUSIC

MASTER TEACHER: Burgett's two courses—History of Jazz or Music of Black Americans— always “were extremely popular,” said John Covach, John Covach, former chair of the College's Department of Music.

Paul BUrgett in graduation robes gestures while giving a speech

DISTINGUISHED ALUMNUS: When he receveived a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Eastman School in 2015, Burgett combined his abilities as a performer, musician, and historian for a TED Talk-style speech that brought together music, anecdotes, aphorisms, and words of wisdom from Eastman alumni.

Rich Feldman, Paul BUrgett, and Jessica Guzman-Rae laughing at the dedication of the Burgett Intercultural Center

INTERCULTURAL . . . FROM BIRTH: In 2016, the University named the Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center in recognition of Burgetts long service, a tenure in which—as a board resolution noted—he was a “tireless advocate for justice and equity for all.” Delighted with the honor, Burgett wrote a note of thanks in which he said he was “an intercultural product ... from birth.”

Paul BUrgett receives his veterans pin from Tony Kinslow

VETERAN LEADER: A former US Army Reservist, Burgett was one of several veterans recognized for their service during an annual ceremony on campus.

Paul Burgett seating in an armchair on stage with Ken Burns

RACE IN AMERICA: Burgett talked with acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns about race in America during a Meliora Weekend session in 2015. Burns and Burgett also spoke with WXXI-FM public radio's Evan Dawson. (To listen, visit

Paul Burgett in an audience, cheering

CHAMPION CHEERLEADER: Burgett was deeply committed to diversity issues—he's shown here at the annual Presidential Diversity Awards. “[Burgett's] genuine, heartfelt, and gracious interest in the success of every student, faculty and staff member, and administrator drove every decision he made as a University leader and every initiative he championed at the University,” said President Feldman.

Paul Burgett looks skyward and gestures while giving a speech

'PASSION AND ABILITY DRIVE AMBITION': The passion Burgett felt for working with students was borne out in his teaching, in the “disciplined attention and enthusiasm for the music and ideas that I try to bring to my students in the classroom,” he once said. “Students are my most favorite people in the world. I adore them. I love students. My idea of the closest thing to great potential and to efforts at human perfection, for me that's to be found in students.”

Read more

magazine cover for Rochester Review with a feature about Paul Burgett with the headline 50 YEARS AGO PAUL BURGETT ARRIVED AT THE UNIVERSITY. NEITHER HAS BEEN THE SAME SINCE.

Rochester Review
January-February 2015
“Fifty years ago, Paul Burgett arrived at the University of Rochester. Neither has been the same since.”