The university community has lost one of its most beloved faculty members. Roger Stephens, professor and director of the School of Music, died Sunday evening after a courageous battle with cancer for several years.
Stephens came to the university in 2001 and worked tirelessly to make a difference as director of the School of Music. During his tenure he engaged the faculty, staff and students in long-term planning, producing a strategic plan for the school’s continued growth and improvement. He worked to address faculty, staff and student concerns and to secure the resources, space and equipment to achieve excellence in the school’s programs. Collaborating with alumni and development staff, Stephens sought support for new space for the School of Music.
Staff and family note that his proudest moment as director of the School of Music was the groundbreaking ceremony for the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center held Nov. 9. The new technology- enhanced building is now under construction on its former site. The facility will feature many of the director’s ideas in its design.
In December, the school’s faculty and staff extended their appreciation of Stephen’s leadership at a luncheon. They presented him with the text for an engraved plaque to be placed in the new Natalie L. Haslam Music Center in his honor, which will serve as a permanent reminder of his place in the history of the School of Music and the university.
Hap McSween, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, noted Stephen’s passionate leadership of the School of Music.
“For the past decade, Roger has been the heart and soul of the School of Music,” he said. “His legacy includes many accomplishments, not the least of which is advocating for our new music building and ensuring that it meets the needs of the faculty, staff and students.”
His colleagues talked of his hard fought fight, noting that he was working in his office just last week. He refused to allow his long struggle with the disease to undermine his commitment to his work and his artistic expression. He also used his vocal talent to entertain and uplift the spirits of both the medical staff and his fellow patients at the chemotherapy center where he received treatments. He continued, as well, singing the national anthem at graduation, where his voice filled Thompson-Boling Arena.
Stephens’ family has scheduled a celebration of life on Thursday Feb. 24, at Community Church at Tellico Village, I30 Chota Center, Loudon, Tennessee 37774. All are invited to attend; visitation will begin at 6 p.m. and continuing after the service, which will begin at 7 p.m. The family requests that memorials in his honor be made to the University of Tennessee School of Music, 243 Dunford Hall, 915 Volunteer Blvd., Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-4040.
Read Stephens’ obituary here.
Later in this semester, the university community will host a celebration of his life, which will be announced in Tennessee Today.