Oklahoma Baptist University

Warren Angell Dies May 6

Legendary Musician Was 98

Dr. Warren M. Angell

Dr. Warren M. Angell, dean emeritus of Oklahoma Baptist University’s Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts, died Saturday morning, May 6, in Asheville, N.C. He was 98.

Funeral services will be in Potter Auditorium of OBU’s John Wesley Raley Chapel at 2 p.m. Friday, May 12. Burial will follow the ceremony, in Shawnee’s Resthaven Memorial Park Cemetery.

For more details about Angell memorial events, click here.

“Dr. Angell epitomized Oklahoma Baptist University,” said OBU President Mark Brister. “He was a gifted educator who poured his life into the lives of his students. He used his gifts to strengthen Christian ministry, through those he trained and sent out, and through his personal work with musicians across the country. His legacy is one which we strive to uphold on our campus.

“We were able to visit last fall, as he was inducted into the Oklahoma State Higher Education Hall of Fame,” said Brister. “That was a prominent moment in history, as we celebrated his leadership and achievement. We are grateful for the influence Warren Angell has had and will continue to have on Oklahoma Baptist University.”

Angell died just one week before his 99th birthday. He suffered a stroke April 26, and had been hospitalized since that time.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on May 13, 1907, Angell graduated from Ilion, N.Y., High School, and received both bachelor and master of music degrees in piano and composition from Syracuse University, in Syracuse, N.Y. He earned a doctor of education degree from Columbia University Teachers College in 1944. He spent four summers studying in Europe and did summer study at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, N.Y.

Angell taught piano and theory at Murray State Teachers College, Murray, Ky., as head of the piano department from 1934-36.

Angell moved to Oklahoma in 1936 when he was named dean of the College of Fine Arts and professor of piano, organ, and theory at OBU – a school that was struggling for survival in the midst of the Great Depression.

“OBU seemed to offer what I wanted – a chance to settle somewhere and grow with the school,” Angell explained.

Over the next 37 years, Angell built a College of Fine Arts with a faculty of 29 and an enrollment of 300. In addition to his academic leadership, he was a respected teacher, a noted composer and arranger, a widely recognized pianist, and a well-known choral conductor. In 1938 he founded the Bison Glee Club and directed the organization until 1975. He also founded the Bisonette Glee Club in 1954 and the Tuneclippers in 1962.

Angell’s work with choral techniques in the Bison Glee Club earned the group national prominence. During his tenure, the BGC made seven commercial records, appeared in 1965 on the Great Choirs of America “Voice of Christmas” series on NBC, and was featured on other television and radio programs.

Angell was granted a leave of absence from OBU from 1942 to 1944 to complete his doctoral work at Columbia. During his time in New York City, he sang top tenor with Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians and was a member of the Robert Shaw Collegiate Chorale, often singing solos.

“Because of his exceptional abilities he could have gone to the largest and most prestigious music programs in the nation,” said Dr. Bob Agee, OBU president emeritus. “But he chose to stay at OBU throughout his career out a deep love for what the school stands for and for the students he encountered.”

Angell became OBU’s key public relations representative and student recruiter by virtue of travel with his music groups and his leadership of choral workshops throughout the country. In 1956 the OBU board of trustees named the College of Fine Arts in his honor.

“Dean Warren Angell, more than any single individual, helped to establish the OBU identity around the world,” said Agee, who is now executive director of the Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools. “With the Bison Glee Club, he traveled through the U.S. and overseas, wowing the public with fantastic music and a spirit that captivated the hearts of people everywhere. I have encountered literally hundreds of alumni who indicated that they first learned about OBU from hearing the Glee Club and decided they wanted to come.”

“I came to OBU because of Dean Angell, as did hundreds of students in the 19040s, ’50s and ’60s,” said Mary Kay Higginbotham Parrish, a 1962 OBU graduate who grew up in Pascagoula, Miss. “He did not disappoint. That twinkle in his eye was his trademark and he made everyone feel special. He was a wonderful musician and taught us many valuable lessons about music and life. His influence on my life was a special blessing and I feel privileged to have been at OBU during his prime.”

“Warren Angell’s influence in the field of music lives on in his many students, compositions, recordings, and in the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts,” said Dr. Paul Hammond, dean of the College of Fine Arts. “We strive to continue the example he set of serving God through the process of educating students to become the best musicians they can be. His love for OBU students was evident on every visit to the campus.”

Angell wrote five books on vocal and choral techniques, published by Convention Press, Nashville, Tenn. He had more than 53 published compositions in the choral field and four published piano numbers. There are many more choral arrangements published, particularly of hymn tunes, as well as unpublished vocal and instrumental compositions. In addition to published music, Angell made several commercial piano recordings.

His honors include Who's Who in America, Who's Who Among Deans and Presidents of American Colleges, Who's Who in Music, Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities, International Directory of Music and Musicians, Directory of American Scholars, and Directory of Outstanding Americans. He was a Fellow of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, a former trustee of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., and recipient of the 1967, 1968, and 1969 Awards of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

Angell was a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Lions International, Elks Lodge, Music Educators National Conference, National Association of Teachers of Singing, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, and a charter member of American Choral Directors Association.

In retirement, Angell continued to travel, conducting choral workshops and presenting piano concerts. In May 1997, more than 400 OBU alumni and friends celebrated his 90th birthday with a two-day event on the university’s campus. In October 2005, Angell was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame.

“There are very few people in OBU’s history who have made as deep an impact on as many lives as has Dean Warren Angell,” said Agee. “Besides all this, he was my dear friend and constant encourager. I feel a deep sense of personal loss at his passing.”

Angell was married to Evalyn Wells Angell from 1934 until her death in 1984. In 1987 he married Twyla Carothers.

In addition to his wife, of Black Mountain, N.C., Angell is survived by three children, Richard Angell, Sally Moore, and Julie Nadeau; three step-children, Twyla Boyer, Robert Boyer, and Holly Hudgins; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

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