Music Chair Joseph Shirk Dies

Posted: September 11, 2000 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Joseph D. Shirk, Music, died at his Clifton home Sept. 7 from cancer. Shirk joined George Mason in 1994 as chair of the Department of Music, where he provided artistic and administrative leadership. He quickly recognized that the department was in desperate need of funds for music scholarships and established an external Music Scholarship Development Committee.

This past spring, the Music Department hosted the fourth annual Music Benefit Scholarship Concert, a fund-raising effort founded by Shirk and supported by the Music Scholarship Development Committee. During the past four years, more than $700,000 in scholarship funds has been raised.

“Joseph Shirk was the best administrator I have ever worked for in my entire professional career,” says Tony Maiello, Music. “He was extremely dedicated, and hard-working, and led by example. I was honored to be a member of his faculty.”

President Alan Merten remembers Shirk as an entrepreneur. “When I accepted my position as president, the first piece of mail I got from George Mason University was from Joe Shirk. His letter included excellent material on the Department of Music. He described the role of the department, its recent successes, and its commitment to raising private funds to enhance state dollars. His enthusiasm was obvious and he encouraged me to learn more about our music program,” Merten says. “When I visited him at his home about a month ago, in spite of his health he still was full of ideas.”

This year, shortly before he was diagnosed with cancer, Shirk was appointed as interim director of the Institute of the Arts. He wrote “A Vision for the Arts: George Mason University Arts Restructuring Proposal,” which was later used as a basis for the current College of Visual and Performing Arts proposal.

A funeral service is held at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16 at Vienna Presbyterian Church.

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