We lost the great Jim Pruett on the 26th of Feb. He was an exceptional scholar, librarian, and administrator who did many marvelous things for the UNC Department of Music before betaking himself to the Library of Congress, where he ran the Music Division for what must have seemed like a very long tour, mostly unaccompanied, while his other half, Lilian, continued to teach here, at NC Central University. Dr. Pruett was the epitome of the old Southern gentleman, consistently calm, always relaxed, he exuded grace and charm whether the person on the receiving end of his kindness was a freshman trying to navigate the stacks or an artist of world-class caliber. There’s a lovely short autobiogaphy here that reveals much more about his life than some of us knew. (I didn’t know he was a pianist, that he was from Mt. Airy, or that he was a childhood pal of Andy Griffith.) We’ll follow this up with word on services and memorials in due course. Meanwhile our hearts and those of perhaps thousands of students and former colleagues go out to Lilian and to their family in this hour of sadness.
UNC Music’s tribute to Dr. Pruett follows:
Remembering Professor James W. Pruett (1932–2014)
The Department of Music mourns the passing of distinguished alumnus and Professor Emeritus James W. Pruett, who died on February 26 at the age of 81. A native of Mt. Airy, NC, Pruett began his lifelong connection with the Department as an undergraduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill. After completing his Bachelor of Arts in 1955, he went on to earn a Master of Arts (’57) and Doctor of Philosophy (’62) in the Department, and to marry fellow music graduate student Lilian Pivernik (M.A. ’57, Ph.D. ’60). Pruett joined the UNC music faculty in 1961, where he served alongside his wife for many years. After ten years as Department Chair (1976–1986), Pruett left UNC in 1987 to become Chief of the Music Division at the Library of Congress, a post he held until his retirement in 1995.
Pruett’s legacy of leadership at UNC and the Library of Congress continue to be fondly remembered, and to find concrete expression in the Department of Music’s Pruett Summer Research Fellowships. The fellowships fund a summer of archival work at the LOC’s Music Division for three UNC musicology graduate students each year. Gifts in Pruett’s memory may be directed to The Pruett Fellowship Fund; The Department of Music; Hill Hall, CB# 3320; Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3320, or … online at music.unc.edu/make-a-gift.
The published notice is here. A memorial service will be planned for later this spring.
Updated 4/27/14: The aforementioned memorial event will be held on Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 3 o’clock in Hill Music Building, Auditorium at UNC-Chapel Hill.