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Union community mourns three longtime colleagues


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William "Edgar" CurtisAlan RobertsPatricia Sendzicki
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Members of the Union community are remembering three colleagues: a guiding spirit of music, a champion of international study, and a departmental assistant who was a valued advisor to students and faculty alike.

Prof. of Music Emeritus William “Edgar” Curtis, who for several decades was what a colleague called “the guiding spirit of music at the College and in the region,” died Oct. 23, 2011, at Adams House in Fall River, Mass. Curtis, who taught at Union from 1956 to 1979, was 97.

Born in Aberdeen, Scotland on March 11, 1914,  Edgar grew up in Edinburgh and studied philosophy and music at the University of Edinburgh. He later studied piano and conducting with Rudolph Serkin and Fritz Busch in Europe. He came to the U.S. in 1940 to study conducting with Serge Koussevitzky at Tanglewood and Fritz Reiner at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. In 1942 he founded the Curtis String Orchestra in Boston. From 1944 to 1946 he was an instructor and conductor at the U.S. Navy School of Music in Washington. From 1948 to 1967, he was conductor of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the Tri-City Symphony and the Northeastern New York Philharmonic. Edgar was chairman of the Music Department at Union from 1955 to 1972. He oversaw the restoration of organs at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in Albany and the chapel at Union College.

Prof. Hilary Tann, who began at Union after Curtis had retired, recalls his shock of white hair in the audience at Memorial Chapel. Curtis was a founding organizer of what today is the Union College Concert Series, widely regarded as one of the region’s premier chamber series with internationally known performers. In the mid-80s when Prof. Tann arrived to conduct the Union College and Community Orchestra, she turned to her predecessor for inspiration. She traveled often to his home in Berlin, N.Y., where they would study scores and stand facing each other to conduct, mirror images in a slow-motion fencing act.

“His wit and knowledge and humanity were always ready and available to shape the inner music of the score, and his composer and conductor selves were fused,” Tann said. “I have felt his guiding spirit throughout the last 30 years and I was delighted to share with him the plans for the Taylor Music Center and to bring his warmest greetings to the dedication on May 5, 2007. I know Edgar would have reveled in the new building and that somehow, in countless ways, our present students feel his presence even now.”

He was pre-deceased by his wife, Doris Gray (Schauffler) Curtis in 2007. Survivors include their three children, Michael G. of Corinth Vt.; Julie M. of Westport; and Annie Chittenden of Madison, Conn. A family memorial service was planned. Memorial contributions may be made to Adams House, 1168 Highland Ave., Fall River, MA 02720.


Alan Roberts, professor emeritus of French and Spanish, who led the College’s first term to Rennes, France in 1970, died July 25, 2011. He was 94.

He joined the faculty in 1953 and retired in 1980. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Haverford College in 1939, and his master’s and Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1940 and 1949, respectively. He also studied in Mexico and France. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Force as an instructor who trained pilots in instrument flying. Before joining Union, he taught at St. Edmunds School and at the University of Vermont.

At Union, he created a fall semester program in four cities of France and directed it seven times during his last decade at Union. Intent on fostering cultural immersion, he arranged for French families to host Union student. Besides leading trips abroad, he was known for his care and concern for visiting foreign students. He was active in the HELP (Higher Education for Lasting Peace) program, which annually brought several foreign students to Union. He was a scholar of the French author André Chamson and edited several of his works.

In 1957, the College presented him with the Leonard Suskind Award for forwarding the cause of freedom of speech, religion, press or racial tolerance. The award recognized his work as chairman of Union’s Foreign Exchange and Fulbright Committee and his association with Union’s Experiment in International Living. When he retired, he moved to Starksboro, Vt., where he had inherited his parent’s 250-acre property overlooking Camel’s Hump. He has deeded the property to the Vermont Land Trust.


Patricia J. Sendzicki, an administrative assistant at Union for 40 years including the last 16 as technical secretary with the Biology Department, died Oct. 2, 2011, at Ellis Hospital after a long illness. She was 78.

A Schenectady native and lifelong area resident, she joined the College in 1968 as technical secretary of Biology.  Pat was the face and voice of the programs she supported and a valued advisor to students and faculty alike. “Pat took enormous pride in her work, and worked hard to do it well,” said Prof. Leo Fleishman, chair of Biology. “She could be very efficient, but she had a warm heart. She loved the students at Union, and was always happy to interact with them and try to help them out. She frequently listened to their problems, and offered them good, common sense advice.”

During her time at Union, Pat also supported the Academic Opportunity Program, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Director of Undergraduate Health Programs and Dean of Arts and Sciences.
She retired from the College last July. 

She is survived by her son, Jeffrey Sendzicki of Niskayuna; her daughter, Dr. Bonnie Sendzicki of Waterford, Maine; and three grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made in her name to the College.