Evelyn Winfrey, 71, professor, organist

July 24, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Evelyn Hering Winfrey, who made students her "top priority" as a music professor and organist at Western Maryland College for more than 40 years, died Tuesday of cancer at her Westminster home.

In addition to teaching, Mrs. Winfrey, 71, was an organist at two Westminster churches and is believed to have provided the musical accompaniment to more than 600 weddings.

"She was a classy person in every meaning of the word," said Susan Froner, a longtime friend. "Could she teach? Yes. Could she play music for every occasion? You bet. Was she a lady? No question."

Mrs. Winfrey taught at Western Maryland College for 41 years, imparting courses such as history of jazz, history of music of the Western world and music appreciation to two generations of students, including some of the school's current professors.

She also was instrumental in establishing two essential courses, the history of jazz and the music of Oceania, and encouraged the artistic relationship between music and theater through her work with the college's women's chorus project.

Robert H. Chambers, president of the college, said Mrs. Winfrey "deeply cared about teaching as a faculty member who made [her] students the top priority and as a colleague who nurtured us all."

Mrs. Winfrey provided the musical accompaniment at hundreds of ceremonial campus events for more than 20 years, playing the keyboards at countless commencements and two college presidents' inaugurations.

As a teacher, she used an easy manner to readily connect with students.

"She affirmed the students, she believed in them," said the Rev. Ira Zepp, a minister and retired Western Maryland College philosophy professor. "Her best quality in the classroom was reaching the students."

A native of Savannah, Ga., Mrs. Winfrey began studying piano when she was 10 and graduated from the Wesleyan College Conservatory of Music in Georgia in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in music. She received a master's degree in music from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., in 1951.

Soon after her graduation, she became a music professor and the official organist at Western Maryland College in Westminster, keeping the posts until she retired in 1994. During that time, she was also organist for weddings.

"Every wedding was unique to her, and she never templated them," said Mr. Zepp, who officiated many of the weddings she (( accompanied. "She was special with each wedding. She made sure things were just right for each."

The former Evelyn Smith married Robert H. Winfrey in 1993.

Mrs. Winfrey was a member of the American Guild of Organists and the Woman's Club of Westminster. In her retirement, she did tTC volunteer work involving children, including readings at day care centers.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. today at St. Paul's United Church of Christ, Bond and Green streets in Westminster.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by a son, Edward N. Winfrey of Virginia Beach, Va.; two daughters, Catharine Johnson of State College, Pa., and Patricia Hall of Coshocton, Ohio; a brother, C. Albert Smith of Richmond Hill, Ga.; and 15 grandchildren.

Donations may be made to the Carroll Hospice, 95 Carroll St., Westminster 21157 or to the St. Paul's United Church of Christ.

Pub Date: 7/24/98

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