Dr. Mary Jeanne van Appledorn, lovingly know as “Dr. Van,” passed away on Friday, December 12, 2014. She was born in Holland, Michigan on October 2, 1927, to John van Appledorn, Jr. and Elizabeth Rinck. She had one sister, Ruth, who passed in 2000.
Dr. Van served the art of music as Professor of Music at Texas Tech University from 1950 until her retirement in 2008—58 years of service. She earned three degrees in music from The Eastman School of Music: Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance, 1948; Master of Music in theory, 1950; and Doctor of Philosophy in Music with a dissertation on Debussy, in 1966.
Dr. Van’s career at Texas Tech was honored by her appointment as Paul Whitfield Horn Professor in 1989 in recognition of her teaching of generations of music students, her creativity in producing many original and diverse compositions, and her dedication and service to her students, the university and the artistic world of music.
As a composer, she was recognized by ASCAP with 28 Annual Standard Awards in recognition of the many performances of her works nationally and internationally. She was commissioned to write music for many national music organizations, and she wrote for friends and colleagues.
Dr. Van enriched the cultural and intellectual life of Lubbock through her music. She was selected Lubbock Woman of Excellence for the Arts by the YWCA in 2003. She was also honored by the Tech chapters of Phi Mu Alpha and Mu Phi Epsilon for 40 years of “enduring loyalty and diligent service” to the field of music. Her music was performed by the Lubbock Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra, Texas Tech band, orchestra and choir as well as many faculty and student recitals in the School of Music. As director of the Annual Symposium of Contemporary Music, which she founded and managed from 1951 to 1982, she brought to West Texas world famous composers such as Howard Hanson, George Crumb, Alan Hovanness, John Cage and Leslie Bassett.
As a teacher, Dr. Van was the key factor in developing the music skills of thousands of music students who were in her classes in theory and composition. It is fair to state that virtually every student who earned a degree in music from Texas Tech from 1950 to 2008 was touched by Mary Jeanne van Appledorn. Her students hold significant positions in public school music as directors and administrators, they teach in many institutions of higher learning in the U. S. and serve as music and arts administrators.
A diligent work ethic, passionate attention to detail and a scrupulous habit of being on time (which means being early) were hallmarks of her work and part of the example she set for thousands of students that was taken by many as a talisman for their own professional lives. But most important—Dr. Van had a passionate love for, and knowledge of, all things musical. Her deep and abiding affection for music in all its aspects was very contagious and encouraged students and colleagues to strive to their highest level of accomplishment.
Memorials may be made to the Texas Tech Foundation, and designated for the School of Music graduate programs.
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