A life of harmony

When the Portland State community who knew S. John Trudeau describe the former university dean, phrases like “warm person,” “visionary” and “excellent conductor” are evoked.

When the Portland State community who knew S. John Trudeau describe the former university dean, phrases like “warm person,” “visionary” and “excellent conductor” are evoked.

Trudeau, former dean of PSU’s College of Fine and Performing Arts, died Nov. 3 of complications from congestive heart failure. He was 81.

The former dean, was also a trombonist and conductor, created a lasting legacy both in the School of Fine and Performing Arts and the university as a whole, said Barbara Sestak, the current dean of the school.

“[He] made it possible to be where we are at today,” Sestak said.

When Trudeau arrived at PSU in 1956, the classes offered in performing arts through the College of Arts and Letters were limited. When he retired due to health problems in 1986, Trudeau had evolved the school into the Fine and Performing Arts school it is today.

Aside from starting the School of Fine and Performing Arts in 1982, Trudeau was also involved with the evolution of the arts program, especially the music program. This was primarily because Trudeau was influential in hiring full-time, established musicians, according to cellist Hamilton Cheifetz and members of the Florestan Trio, a performance group at PSU.

Cheifetz and violinist Carol Sindell were hired as full-time faculty in 1977, thanks to Trudeau’s efforts, Cheifetz said.

“This was a big step for the music department, because it was adding three full-time performers as member of the faculty,”

Because of Trudeau’s passion for music and the arts, he was able to see the music program grow in number and reputation.

“It’s a real high-quality program, with a lot of high energy and a lot of really excellent professors,” Cheifetz said. “What he sort of set in motion just kept moving in that direction.”

Trudeau was also one of the founders of the southern Oregon’s Britt Music Festival, which began in 1963.

Today, the festival brings in thousands of people and features a wide variety of musicians from a variety of genres, ranging from classical to jazz and country.

“It’s become a huge success story,” Cheifetz said. “At first it was just a concert on the hillside under the stars. Now they have a beautiful pavilion and a stage.”

Additionally, Trudaeu also founded the Columbia Symphony in 1982, which he also conducted for 14 years.

“He was a relaxed and natural musician and that carried over into his dealings with people,” Cheifetz said. “He kind of let the orchestra play instead of forcing it to play.”

Trudeau was known for how well he interacted with students and staff, said violinist Carol Sindell, another member of the Florestan Trio. “He really earned the respect and love he received. He was a warm, generous and caring individual.”

Trudeau continued his involvement with the PSU’s music program even after his retirement, Sestak said. Both Trudeau and his wife, Elizabeth, both continued to be a “really big supporters of creative arts,” Sestak said.

Cheifetz said Trudeau saw the fruit of his achievements grow in his lifetime.

“He was a visionary,” he said. “He wanted to see things really grow and develop in an excellent way and did everything he could to make it happen. It got us results, I think it gave him a lot of pleasure in later life.”

Trudeau is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, his children George J. Trudeau, Jeannette T. Coil, Stephanie J. Hulcher and Jennifer Graylands, his sister, Arlene Krupsky and seven grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on campus at a time to be announced.