Robert H. Luscombe, dean emeritus of the College of Fine Arts at Western Michigan University, died June 8 at the University of Michigan Hospital after a valiant fight with leukemia. He was 77.
Luscombe, of Richland, Mich., retired in 1999 after 26 years of service to the University, 19 of them as the second dean of the fine arts college.
He joined WMU's staff in 1973 as administrative assistant to the first dean of the newly formed college, then came a series of promotions in quick succession. He was appointed assistant dean of the college in 1974, associate dean in 1977 and acting dean a year later; served as chair of the Department of Theatre from 1978 to 1980; and was named dean of the fine arts college in 1980.
Throughout his tenure, Luscombe was involved in a variety of universitywide activities, including chairing committees for WMU's celebration of the University's 75th birthday and nation's 200th birthday. He also served as director of the Michigan Youth Arts Festival for 15 years, bringing artistically talented Michigan youth to WMU for interactive instruction and performance opportunities.
Active off campus, he served in many capacities with the Michigan Council for the Arts, as well as in posts such as vice president of the Michigan Theatre Association, Michigan University and College Theatre Association, and fine arts section of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters.
In addition, Luscombe co-founded and served on the boards of several organizations. They included the Michigan Dance Association, the Ann Arbor Council for the Performing Arts, and the Kalamazoo area's Education for the Arts Program, Plaza Arts Circle and Gilmore International Keyboard Festival. As an early president of the Gilmore Festival as well as WMU's Partners in Dance, he helped shape the direction of both groups in multiple ways.
Luscombe was selected to receive the 1999 Governor's Arts in Education Award and the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo's 1998 Cooper Award for Distinguished Volunteer Services. He was a lifetime, honorary member of the Michigan Dance Council, and also received Art Serve Michigan's Arts Advocate and Educator of the year awards, Wayne State University's Distinguished Alumni Award, and the WMU College of Fine Arts Outstanding Service Award.
Passionate about the arts even as a young man, Luscombe earned two degrees from Wayne State University, a bachelor's degree in theatre and speech in 1960 and a master's degree in theatre in 1967.
Soon after finishing his master's degree, he became the first performing arts coordinator of the Michigan Council for the Arts. A year later, he became assistant to the dean of the University of Michigan School of Music, a position he held until coming to WMU.
He began his professional career in 1954, acting and crewing at theatres in Michigan and Ohio as well as spending a year as guide and evening services manager for the Detroit News and WWJ-TV in Detroit. He went on to work at the General Motors Corp., mostly in the Shows and Exhibits Department, from 1961 to 1966.
Luscombe will be honored during a memorial service from 11 a.m. to noon Friday, June 14, in the First Presbyterian Church, 8047 Church St. in Richland. There will be a time for fellowship in the church's community room immediately following the service.
Visit farleyestesdowdle.com to share personal messages with the family and favorite memories of Luscombe.
Memorial gifts may be made to the Luscombe Collaborative Projects Endowment of the College of Fine Arts in c/o College of Fine Arts, Western Michigan University, 1903 W. Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo, MI, 49008-5421.