Dean of Music to bow out next year

Becky Bowman

Bernard Dobroski, dean of the School of Music since 1990, announced Wednesday that he will step down from his post effective July 1, 2003.

Dobroski, 55, said he’s watched NU, and in particular the School of Music, gain in prestige during his 12 years as dean, and now he’s ready to pass the torch.

The school isn’t in perfect shape yet, and Dobroski said his replacement should focus on funding for a new building and more scholarships.

Dobroski, who has studied or served at Northwestern nearly every year since 1972 and is NU’s longest-serving dean, said he has no plans to abandon the school.

“There’s a group of people here who bleed purple, and I’m one of them,” he said. “I can’t change – and that’s why it’s likely that I’m going to be here for probably the next 15 years.”

Dobroski said he plans to continue lobbying not only for issues in the School of Music but also for other arts outlets on campus – activities he can devote more time to without the bureaucracy and responsibilities of being a dean.

“I plan to be more active than ever,” he said.

Dobroski’s announcement strikes a familiar chord at NU – five other schools have changed deans in the past two years. Kellogg School of Management, School of Speech, Medill School of Journalism, Weinberg College of the Arts and Sciences and the School of Continuing Studies have all announced leadership changes since 2000.

Except for four years when he served as dean of the University of Oregon School of Music, Dobroski has served as a dean or associate dean at NU for the past 29 years. Now, he now wants to explore other avenues of arts advocacy.

“Like all of you, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,” he said. “I have a period of time now, by stepping down, to decide what I want to do.”

Frederick Hemke, an associate dean who took over for Dobroski last spring when he injured his ankle, said finding a dean who can live up to Dobroski’s standards will be difficult.

“He has created the watchword for everyone,” Hemke said. “He’s a national leader in music, and if there’s to be a benchmark (in the search), it will be Dean Dobroski’s work here. What we’re looking for is another Bernard Dobroski.”

In his 12 years as dean, Dobroski has worked to provide music opportunities for students outside of his school.

“I remember the days when the Music School was surrounded by a moat, and so were the journalism school and other schools,” said Hemke, who has been at NU for more than 40 years. “What Dean Dobroski has done is to build bridges.”

A joint Music-Medill program, which is pending final approval by Music administrators, will complete Dobroski’s mission to create programs with all of NU’s undergraduate schools. Music or arts can help students around campus get in touch with their souls, he said.

“An education devoid of the arts is one that is skeletal,” Dobroski said. “Yes, you have a lot of ideas. But unless you educate the heart through the arts, the spirit through the arts, what you have is a bunch of facts. Without the arts, just the pursuit of the education of the mind is shallow. It doesn’t have a context.”

Dobroski has pioneered several music-for-nonmajors classes that focus on topics such as The Beatles and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” Dobroski said such programs have increased “ten-fold” during his tenure.

NU students have a unique opportunity to study music thanks to faculty who understand the need for both research and creative work and an “intellectual environment that no other school in United States has,” Dobroski said.

“We have compared favorably with the Juilliards and the Curtises and the Eastmans,” he said. “But at the same time, our students can go on to the Harvards and the Yales.”

Dobroski first came to NU as a doctoral student in 1972, after earning an undergraduate degree in music performance and musicology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and a master’s degree from Catholic University of America in Washington, where he studied tuba performance and music history. He was kept out of the draft during the Vietnam War because he served in the White House Navy Band.

The School of Music hired Dobroski to teach in 1974. He went on to hold the posts of associate dean and director of undergraduate studies. In the early 1980s, he served twice as a judge in the Miss America Pageant.

Under Dobroski’s leadership, the School of Music has become a leader in its field, Hemke said.

“The international reputation of the School of Music has risen to the extent where we are now recognized as a school of music,” Hemke said. “Dean Dobroski has left the School of Music in very wonderful condition and shape. He has a legacy of the vision of the school of music that will certainly transcend his reign as dean.”

Jessica Schaeffer, speaking on behalf of the School of Music Student Advisory Board, praised the dean for his commitment to hearing students’ ideas through the board’s quarterly forums.

“Dean Dobroski has been incredibly supportive of this organization from the moment of its conception, and he’s made himself very available and has made efforts to attend our forums,” she said. “We appreciate that.”