Funeral services for Dr. Ronald W. Cross are scheduled for Saturday, March 9 at Matthew Funeral Home, 2508 Victory Blvd., Castleton Corners, Staten Island:
- From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. — Quiet viewing
- From 1 to 5 p.m. — Viewing with time to share reminiscences, stories and music
- From 5 to 6 p.m. — Those who would like to perform in the choir for the 6 p.m. service will rehearse. Please print the three pieces of music, learn it ahead of time, and bring the music with you. Download music:
- 6 p.m. — Solemn funeral service, following the Lutheran liturgy — Pastor Arthur Petersen, St. Paul’s–St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, presiding
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, March 10, starting at 10 a.m. at St. Paul’s–St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 186 Decker Ave., Port Richmond, Staten Island. Anyone interested in performing at this service should contact Pastor Petersen at 718-698-3337.
Dr. Cross’s ashes will be interred this spring.
An online archive of the Collegium Musicum Wagneriensis is being created, which will feature programs, recordings and reminiscences. Send items to TerryVPrideaux@gmail.com.
Future plans include a recording of the complete works of Matthaeus Pipelare, which were published by the American Institute of Musicology in 1966-67 in a three-volume set edited by Dr. Cross.
The music history award given to a deserving Wagner College graduate at the annual Senior Awards Banquet has been named the Ronald Cross Memorial Music History Award.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to:
- St. Paul’s–St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 186 Decker Ave., Staten Island NY 10302
- Ronald Cross Memorial Music History Award Fund, c/o Wagner College Development Office, 1 Campus Rd., Staten Island NY 10301
FRIDAY, FEB. 22, 2013 — We are sad to announce the passing of Ronald Cross, Ph.D., AAGO, the Kurt and Auguste Riemann Professor of Music at Wagner College. Dr. Cross, a resident of Grymes Hill, Staten Island, died at home last night. He was 84 years old.
Ron Cross was born Feb. 18, 1929 in Fort Worth, Texas, the son of John Butler Cross and Verna (Bailey) Cross. He earned his B.A. cum laude from Centenary College of Louisiana, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from New York University. Cross won a post-graduate Fulbright Fellowship that supported his studies at the Conservatory of Venice, the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, and the universities of Siena, Vienna and Florence. In 1966-67, the American Institute of Musicology published Dr. Cross’s definitive three-volume compilation of the complete works of 15th and 16th century Flemish composer Matthaeus Pipelare, titled “M. Pipelare: Opera Omnia.”
Ronald Cross taught at Notre Dame College, Staten Island, from 1958 to 1968. He joined the Wagner College music faculty in September 1968 as an associate professor, earning a promotion to full professor in 1975. In 1984, President Sam Frank named Dr. Cross the Kurt and Auguste Riemann Professor of Music. For many years, Dr. Cross directed the Wagner College Young Musicians Competition. His scholarship was focused on early music history and world music.
As director during the 1980s of the Collegium Musicum Wagneriensis, Ron Cross was widely known for his annual Halloween concerts, “Music from the Court of Vlad the Impaler (Prince Dracula).” On Oct. 29, 2011, Brooklyn’s Metro Chamber Orchestra premiered a musical remembrance of those concerts by Israeli-born conductor Jay Vilnai. Specially commissioned in Dr. Cross’s honor by one of his former students, Metro artistic director Phil Nuzzo ’79, the composition was entitled “Time is on My Side.” Described as “a piece with a Balkan flair on the Dracula theme,” the title was a quote from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, “Dracula.”
A certified Associate of the American Guild of Organists, Dr. Cross was the former dean of AGO’s Staten Island chapter.
FAREWELL TO A FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE: DR. RON CROSS
AMMINI MOORTHY, Biology: I am very saddened to learn about the sudden death of Ron Cross, Professor of Music at Wagner College. I have known Ron for a long time, the 33 years I have been a faculty member at Wagner. We have worked in several committees together, attended summer computer classes, and shared a very special bond with each other.
It all started in the early ’80s, when I was a junior faculty member at Wagner and Ron was the chair of the Music Department. My children, 7 and 4, had started taking piano classes — and I, having absolutely no knowledge of western music, was feeling inadequate in helping them and keeping track of their progress. I decided to sign up for private lessons in piano with the Wagner Music Department. I met Dr. Cross, explained my situation (he was sympathetic), signed up for piano lessons and started visiting Reynolds House (then the Music Department building). I am almost tone deaf; I never progressed beyond “Jingle Bells” and “Mary had a Little Lamb” and had to abandon my ambitious project, but I gained something very precious: a lasting friendship with Ron Cross, a soft-spoken, perfect gentleman with a boyish grin who was a scholar, a teacher and a great human being.
Over the years, he has taken me to Lincoln Center, Avery Fisher Hall and Carnegie Hall to listen to different kinds of music. (I went with his class group, when he had tickets to spare.) I once arranged for his whole class to come and attend an Indian Carnatic music concert, to listen to Indian vocalists and Indian drums, at the Bridgewater Hindu Temple in New Jersey. We have also gone to Indian restaurants together; he loved Indian food and had dabbled in meditation and yoga — and, in fact, knew more about it than I do. When his old tenant left and he was looking for someone to rent the downstairs of his house, I was able to help him find a new tenant. The tenant happens to be Dr. Shahvar’s brother from Iran, and he and his family still live in Ron’s house.
Ron was totally immersed in his music: He was a composer, a player and a listener of all kinds of music. He served Wagner College and countless students well for 44 years. He was well known in music circles, helping many youth from Staten Island and the greater New York area, engaging them in music competitions and teaching music classes over the weekends.
I feel a deep loss within me when I think I will no longer see him walking across our beautiful campus, immersed in his own thoughts but always acknowledging your presence with a smile, stopping and saying “Hello” and “How are you?” We all have lost someone very precious but, like Browning’s old grammarian, he must be doing what he loves: making music in heaven — and all the gods are listening.
Our first meeting was all about "The Goldberg Variations." We discussed them for 30 minutes. This was not the original purpose of the meeting. We were scheduled to discuss this new idea then tentatively labeled "The Wagner Plan," but we just found our way to that topic once we worked our way through Bach. I was so grateful to find this kindred spirit. Once we opened up Bach, I knew he was a gift to Wagner.
ROGER WESBY, Music: I very much appreciate all of the condolences and concern so many of you have expressed to me. Truly, a Music Department without Ron Cross is hard to imagine, and the loss of such a fine colleague is hard to bear.
I have been slow to join in the collective eulogy. The choir leaves for Germany in two days and I feared that in this whirlwind of last-minute preparations I could not contribute meaningfully. I am saddened that the funeral will be held on March 9 and that neither I nor the student members of the choir will be able to attend or to participate. However, I understand that plans are being laid for a remembrance on campus on Wednesday, April 10th at 4:30 pm and I am certain that Ron will be remembered meaningfully in music and word at the Memorial Service held in June at Reunion.
Ron and I used to take our classes to concerts in Manhattan. Over the loud engine noise of the funky school bus that carried us we would cover all manner of topics. It generally began with music but morphed from there into film, politics, history, and Wagner lore (what a treasure of “Old Wagner” stories we lost with him!) among many other things. Ron used to get up at 4:30 am to listen to Asian stock market reports. He loved mystery stories. He was very good at some arcade games and ran me off the road to win at car racing more than once.
Our offices were just across the hall from one another. Sometimes a “good morning” would develop into a far-ranging conversation and an hour later we would try to remember why we had come out of our offices and what is was we were doing before this conversation began.
Ron was greatly loved and admired by generations of students. Each year at the Alumni Choir I would get scores of questions about him. When he didn’t come to the 2011 Alumni Luncheon at reunion, several members of the Alumni Choir, somewhat lubricated by the free-flowing wine that was served, went to his house on Ward Hill and took him out to dinner. Every year when the choir tours, Wagner alumni ask me about Ron.
He was indeed a soft-spoken gentleman but no milk-toast; he stuck to his convictions and mention of certain persons or policies could bring out another side of him and lead to the manifestation of strong feeling. Most often, though, he had a sort of Zen serenity and a benevolent aura, enjoyed humor, had a sometimes mischievous laugh and was by no means above sarcasm though he was never snarky.
His specialty was medieval and early music but he was truly knowledgeable about all kinds of music. He ably taught a World Music, an American Music course, a Romantic Opera course and enjoyed teaching non-majors the Introduction to Music Literature (known to many as “Appreesh”) and Foundations of Music Theory, and took his students to fascinating concerts. He was active in the FYP for years, was quite good with computers and was one of the first faculty members to master online teaching at Wagner.
Regarded as a “living legend” and “walking encyclopedia” among our Music alumni, Ron Cross was a singular professor whose life was essentially Wagner and more precisely, Wagner students. On the bus en route to our Send Off Concert on Sunday I could hear the alumni telling the new students all about him and their experiences in his course. We will miss him, indeed.
ANN HURLEY, English: Beautifully done, Ammini. I am so pleased that someone from the Wagner community is recognizing Ron Cross and reminding us (so eloquently) of what we have lost. Such long service and substance like Ron's is very important. Thank you for helping us see that.
LILY McNAIR, Provost: Thank you very much for your moving tribute to Ron Cross. Ammini, you remind us that we are all part of a special community that is strengthened by experiences that connect us in so many ways. Thank you also for sharing such fond memories of your times with Ron. I think they brought smiles to all of us.
MARILYN KISS, Modern Languages: What a moving tribute to a long-serving and beloved member of the Wagner College Community. Thanks for sharing your remembrances with all of us.
KATHY AHERN, Nursing: Thank you so much for being the voice for many of us who knew Ron for a long time. I spent several years with him on FPC and was really able to get to know him. What a gentleman he was!
PEG HORAN, Business Administration: Your one line description says it all of our Ron: “a soft-spoken, perfect gentleman with a boyish grin who was a scholar, a teacher and a great human being.” A life well spent.
JOHN JAMIEL, Theatre: A kinder, nicer man you could not meet. A true gentleman with a gentle soul. His presence will be sorely missed.
LORI WEINTROB, History: Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Ammini, so we could each pause to remember all that Ron gave to us as a community. It was a beautifully written tribute.
JOEDY SMITH, Religion: Thanks so much, Ammini, for your sensitive, beautiful remembrance of Ron. He influenced many students, including honor students and ODK members, during my 31 years here. Almost all of these were fulfilling the general education requirements and thoroughly enjoyed his Introduction to Music course. We partnered in the First-Year Learning Community for a few years. I was thoroughly impressed, over and over again, about how he could put a piece of music or composer into its period and relate it to everything that went on historically, musically, politically, etc.
MARGARITA SANCHEZ, Modern Languages: Thanks to all of you. I did not know Ron personally, but your eulogies are helping me understand our loss. It is ironic, but I am getting to know him through your words now that he is no longer with us.
SHAOHUA HU, Government & Politics: Thanks, Roger and Ammini, for the poignant eulogies. I have never worked with Ron, but cherish my fond memories of going with his classes to watch a couple of performances at BAM and in Newark. Ron was so friendly and knowledgeable that chatting with him was both pleasant and fruitful.