In keeping with a long-standing and cherished Hobart and Williams Smith tradition, the Distinguished Faculty Award (DFA) was presented during Reunion Weekend. The award – created, selected and bestowed by students – is presented each year to a former member of faculty who has had a lasting impact on students of the Colleges. This year’s award honored the late Professor of Music Nicholas V. D’Angelo P’98, HON’59.
Held in the Vandervort Room, the ceremony celebrated the life of a man who garnered respect from students, staff and colleagues.
“This is a special night for a special tradition. This award speaks volumes to the individuals we honor, and about the Hobart and William Smith campus and culture as a whole,” remarked President Mark D. Gearan to a room full of alums spanning decades of class years. “This award recognizes what is at the heart of this place – academic excellence that inspires excellence and exuberance in faculty members, students and alums.”
Provost and Dean of Faculty Titi Ufomata reflected on the event, which she attended for the first time as a member of the Colleges’ senior staff. “Last year I attended Reunion and this ceremony as a guest. What I saw was an event that alums and faculty have for each other,” recalled Ufomata. “At Hobart and William Smith, the faculty genuinely cares about their students. They share meals, do research together, travel to every corner of the globe, and unite to volunteer their time. Today we celebrate the strong bonds that form when teachers truly care about their students.”
To present the award, James Steele ’89 delivered a recollection of his relationship with D’Angelo – a teacher and dear family friend. Steele, whose brother, William Steele ’86 and father, Robert Steele ’60, were music majors at the Colleges, had heard stories about D’Angelo growing up.
“Nick’s personality was contagious. He was passionate and energetic,” said Steele. “Nick will always be remembered for his compositions, but he will most importantly be remembered for his passion for music. Nick always said: music is the soul’s way of expressing itself. Thank you, Nick, for sharing your soul with us.”
Steele, who received degrees in both economics and music, now serves as a music teacher in Medina, N.Y.
Paul D’Angelo ’98 accepted the award on his father’s behalf. Growing up on campus, D’Angelo saw his father as a professor and the leader of the jazz ensemble. He painted a picture of his father, sitting awake at 4 a.m. at his desk, crafting compositions, or playing scratchy jazz records in their Hamilton Street home.
“He had a true passion and childlike enthusiasm for music and life – an enthusiasm he shared with so many students at HWS,” he explained. “Because of professors like him, I am looking forward to seeing the arts continue to flourish at this great institution.”
Bob Masteller ’60, a jazz musician and former pupil of D’Angelo’s offered a view of the professor’s early days as an instructor at the Colleges. “He could compose, he could arrange, produce and play – all at the same level,” said Masteller, calling D’Angelo “The Real Cat.” “He had a mystical ability to teach any level, and he was so dynamic that he could communicate with anyone.”
Masteller also shared words on behalf of the Classes of 1959, who named D’Angelo as an honorary classmate. “For us, Nick is personal,” read the letter. “He is that one faculty member who touched all of our lives. He was the personification of cool; he was our very own music man. He reflected his own enthusiasm as only the best teachers do – and he was the best. Bravo, Nick.”
Following the emotional ceremony came an equally powerful jazz performance by an ensemble that included alums, faculty and former band mates of D’Angelo. Robert Barbuto ’94, Charles Leo ’83, Kevin Goodman, Nick Moses, Professor of Sociology Wes Perkins, and Ronald Stowell gave a show that was truly a testament to D’Angelo’s legacy.
The ceremony was organized by members of the DFA Committee: David Beckman ’84, Co-Chair Julie Bazan D’Angelo ’93, Dr. Lisa DeLucia ’04, Co-Chair Porter Hoagland ’77, P’13, Sally Howe ’76, and Herman Tull ’78.
In the photo above, Barbara Riley and Paul D’Angelo ’98, the children of late Professor of Music Nicholas V. D’Angelo P’98, HON’59 accept the Distinguished Faculty Award on behalf of their father who was honored during Reunion.