The Townsend School of Music has named Dr. Stanley Roberts, associate dean, the inaugural Arthur Lowndes Rich Endowed Professor in Choral Conducting. The late Dr. Arthur Lowndes Rich and his wife Helen Rich established the Department of Music within the College of Liberal Arts at Mercer. The professorship was established to honor their memory through a gift made by their daughter and son-in-law, world-renowned classical pianist Dr. Ruth Anne Rich and her husband, Fred Humphrey.
In 1944, the Riches moved to Macon from North Carolina to develop a music department for Mercer. Under Arthur and Helen Rich’s leadership, the music program, especially the Mercer Choir, flourished.
“The Mercer Choir became a legend, performing in churches and high schools across Georgia,” Dr. Ruth Anne Rich said. “Even with two annual performances of Handel’s ‘Messiah,’ crowds jammed Willingham Chapel and spilled over into the surrounding grounds. In December, some windows as well as doors to the Chapel were left open so that all the people outside could hear the performance.”
Through Dr. Arthur Rich’s nurturing leadership, the Mercer Choir grew into a roster of 150 students and became instrumental in gaining community respect and attention for the Music Department.
Dr. Arthur Rich, who is now considered the founder of Mercer’s music program, chaired the Music Department for 30 years before retiring from teaching in 1974. During his tenure, the number of faculty and students steadily increased.
Dr. Arthur Rich continued as director of Mercer’s Concert Series and Cultural Affairs until 1980. Helen Rich died in 1989 and Dr. Arthur Rich died in 1997. Soon after Dr. Arthur Rich’s death, his daughter, son-in-law and son, Col. Arthur “Art” Lowndes Rich Jr., established the Helen and Arthur Rich Endowed Music Scholarship. The professorship grew from additional gifts to the scholarship made by Dr. Ruth Anne Rich and Humphrey.
“The Arthur Lowndes Rich Endowed Professorship in Choral Conducting honors not only Mercer’s first two professors of music, but also the great tradition of choral music that has been a significant part of Mercer’s heritage,” said Dr. John Dickson, dean of the Townsend School of Music.
Dr. Roberts, CLA ’84, is in his 13th year of teaching at Mercer, in what is now Mercer’s Townsend School of Music. Through the professorship he will continue to conduct the Mercer Singers and the Mercer Women’s Choir, while also teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in conducting, choral literature and techniques.
“As a Mercerian I have been keenly aware of the legacy of Arthur and Helen Rich and the profound influence they had on the Mercer and Macon communities,” Dr. Roberts said. “As director of choral studies, I have had the unique opportunity to meet many Mercerians at alumni events who sang with Dr. Rich during his tenure here and inevitably they ask if I knew him. Regretfully, I have to say no. But when they speak of Dr. Rich, I see the twinkle in their eye and realize that he still retains their highest and best admiration.”
The professorship was announced at the Mercer Singers Farewell Concert held in April. University Organist Dr. Robert Parris presented Dr. Ruth Anne Rich with a print of Sterling Everett’s “The Beauty of Strong Foundations,” which also included a plaque that thanked the family for their gift.