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Richard Syracuse

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University mourns death of professor emeritus of music

Richard Syracuse taught piano for more than 41 years


The Ohio University is mourning the loss of Emeritus Professor of Music Richard D. Syracuse, 80, who died on Friday, Nov. 21.

Syracuse, a longtime piano professor who became locally popular for his weekly performances at Cutler's Restaurant in the Ohio University Inn, died Friday night after he was accidently struck by a minivan near his home in Athens. According to an Ohio State Highway Patrol report, he was later pronounced dead at O'Bleness Memorial Hospital.

A graduate of New York's prestigious Juilliard School, Syracuse also earned a Fulbright Scholarship to study piano in Rome at the St. Cecilia Academy under Carlo Zecchi, where he received an Artist Diploma.

At age 29, Syracuse won the annual competition of the Concert Artists Guild. He finished fifth at the annual Queen Elisa­beth of Belgium Competition in Brussels and in 1962, he won the Casella Award in Naples.

Syracuse began teaching in the Ohio University School of Music in September 1966. He officially retired in June 2008 with more than 41 years of service. He also gave piano lessons to many local students throughout his distinguished career.

Despite being retired, Syracuse remained active on and off campus.

Christopher Fisher, associate professor of music and chair of keyboard studies, described
Syracuse as a dear friend and a special gentleman who regularly went out of his way to speak with faculty, staff and students.

"He still came to the music school every day to practice despite his already outstanding career and accomplishments," Fisher said. "He served as an inspiration to all of us."

Fisher added that Syracuse was an exceptionally talented pianist.

"He was the consummate musician," Fisher said. "He was sort of an icon. He would fill our Recital Hall with fans every time he performed. We would have to bring in extra chairs to seat everyone. His impact was far reaching and he will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him."

Dean of the College of Fine Arts Margaret Kennedy-Dygas also praised Syracuse.

"He was beloved in the musical circles," Kennedy-Dygas said. "He was a kind, gentle and gifted man who taught students the whole time he was here. I can't exaggerate how connected he remained with the school until the day he died."  

President Roderick J. McDavis expressed his thoughts about the tragic death in a written statement:

"We are deeply saddened by the news of the sudden passing of Richard D. Syracuse, emeritus professor of music at Ohio University. His long-standing dedication to OHIO students and to the study of music has made an indelible mark on his field and on our community. Our hearts are with Professor Syracuse's family and friends during this difficult time."