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Founding dean of College of Fine Arts dies at 82

by Mark Schwerin

Oct. 17, 2011 | WMU News

Photo Robert W Holmes at Western Michigan University.
Holmes in 1972
KALAMAZOO--Dr. Robert W. Holmes, founding dean of the Western Michigan University College of Fine Arts, died Oct. 10 in Oregon. He was 82.

A resident of Lake Oswego, Ore., Holmes came to WMU in 1966 to serve as chair of the Department of Music. In 1972, he was selected as the first dean of the newly created College of Fine Arts, combining the departments of art, dance, music and theatre. Near the end of his tenure as dean, ground was broken for what would become the Dalton Center, home of the WMU School of Music and Department of Dance.

While in Michigan, he received numerous awards and served as the vice chair of the Michigan Council for the Arts and as a member of the International Council of Fine Arts Deans. In 1979, the Michigan Council for the Arts adopted a resolution commending Holmes for his leadership and contributions to the arts in Michigan. He also was historian and program annotator for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Holmes was born in Somerville, Mass., and earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Boston University. He worked as a music instructor, librarian and professional touring musician before moving to Michigan to accept positions at Oakland University, the University Center for Adult Education and Wayne State University before coming to WMU.

Holmes served as WMU fine arts dean until his resignation in 1980 to accept the executive directorship of the Idyllwild campus of the University of Southern California. Later appoints in his career included dean of the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State University and president of the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, Calif.

His wife of 60 years, Grace, died earlier this year.