A well-known figure in the University of Rochester community has died. Paul Burgett died Wednesday after a brief illness, he was 72.
Burgett, a Vice President of the University, graduated from the Eastman School of Music 50 years ago, and UR President Richard Feldman says that Burgett connected the university to the broader Rochester community in a number of ways, including with the Gateways Music Festival which brings classical musicians of African descent to Rochester. Burgett was chairman of the festival.
Feldman said that Burgett, who was also an adviser to the president of the university, “energized the University community with his presence and strengthened the institution through his wisdom, knowledge and service. He had an enduring impact on generations of students, many of whom often looked to him for guidance on navigating life in college and beyond.”
Feldman also said that, Burgett “touched the lives of thousands of students and of many of us among the faculty and staff as well. Paul advised four University presidents and numerous cabinet colleagues on a wide variety of issues, was general secretary to the Board of Trustees, and was a leader in the Rochester community for decades. Paul accomplished what we all strive for: He leaves the University a better institution and Rochester a richer community for his presence.”
Eastman School of Music Dean Jamal Rossi said that, “Paul is special in so many ways. As a proud alumnus, he was indefatigable in his support of Eastman, as well as the University as a whole. He was a larger than life figure with a gregarious and outgoing personality, who simultaneously was among the most thoughtful and sensitive individuals in any group when thinking about the needs of others. He will be deeply missed as a leader, a colleague, and especially, as a dear friend.”
Burgett also helped the Fringe Festival get off the ground in Rochester several years ago. Its producer, Erica Fee, remembers Burgett as someone who could relate to just about anyone.
“He was an amazing force and so beloved in the artistic community and the Rochester community as a whole. Paul was a man of the people, he was as comfortable meeting his coffee club at McDonalds as he was before the University of Rochester’s Board of Trustees,” Fee said.
WXXI President Norm Silverstein said that, “All of us at WXXI who had the honor of working with Paul Burgett are shocked and saddened by his passing. He appeared on many WXXI programs over the years and he was always a superb representative of the University of Rochester. We will especially miss his wonderful singing voice, his sense of humor, and his upbeat personality. This is a sad day for our community.”
Two years ago, the university named an Intercultural Center after Burgett, and recently, he co-chaired the Commission on Race and Diversity.
University flags will be lowered on Friday in honor of Paul Burgett. There will be a private memorial service and a celebration of his life at a later date.
Messages of condolence to be shared with Paul’s family can be sent to his friend and longtime assistant at the University, Kim Truebger, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or in hard copy to Box 270011, University of Rochester, Rochester 14627-0011.
Remembrances can also be shared on a special memorial website for Paul Burgett: www.rochester.edu/news/remembering-paul-burgett
In 2015, the host and producer of WXXI-TV’s Need to Know program, Hélène Biandudi Hofer sat down with Paul Burgett, talking about five black women composers who were highlighted at the Gateways Music Festival: