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Interlochen Center for the Arts President Emeritus Dean Boal passes away at 92

A gifted pianist, educator, and public radio leader, Boal championed the growth of Interlochen Public Radio and initiated the campus plan that shaped three decades of infrastructure improvements at Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Ed Downing, Dean Boal, Jeff Kimpton, and Trey Devey during the 2021 Sasaki Celebration.

Ed Downing (seated), Dean Boal (left), Jeff Kimpton (center), and Trey Devey (right) during the 2021 Sasaki Celebration.

Dean Boal greets students after his inauguration.

Dean Boal (left) greets Interlochen Arts Academy students following his inauguration as the fourth president of Interlochen Center for the Arts in December 1989.

Dean Boal poses with a graduate during the 1990 Interlochen Arts Academy Commencement.

Dean Boal (right) poses with a graduate during the 1990 Interlochen Arts Academy Commencement.

Dean Boal enters Phoenix Theatre prior to the structure's dedication

Dean Boal (right) enters Phoenix Theatre prior to the structure's dedication in summer 1993.

It is with a heavy heart that we share that Interlochen Center for the Arts President Emeritus Dr. Dean Boal passed away on Nov. 14, 2023 at age 92. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Ellen Boal, his two sons Jed (Brenda Bennett), and Dr. Brett (Dr. Lisa Sheppard), and granddaughters Nina, Eva, and Elena Boal. Nina, Eva, and Elena collectively attended Interlochen Arts Camp for 13 summers.

“I’ve valued my discussions with Dean, his thoughtful and encouraging notes, and his historical perspective on our great organization,” said current Interlochen President Trey Devey. “Dean’s impact on Interlochen has been significant and will continue to be felt for generations to come.”

Before Interlochen

Dean Boal on Osterlin Mall during the summer of 1992.

Dean Boal on Osterlin Mall during the summer of 1992.

Boal was born on Oct. 20, 1931 in Longmont, Colorado. Following his graduation from Longmont High School, Boal studied at the University of Colorado College of Music, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in music and music education under the tutelage of pianist Storm Bull.

In 1953, Boal enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Hood. During his service, Boal was a member of the First Armored Division’s “jeep band” and directed a weekly television show featuring the band’s members.

Upon his discharge from the Army in 1955, Boal enrolled at Indiana University, where he studied piano with Bela Nagy. He received his Master of Music in Piano Performance in 1956. Boal then returned to the University of Colorado College of Music to pursue his doctoral studies; in 1959, he received the first Doctorate of Musical Arts in Piano Literature ever awarded by the university. Boal would later be named a Distinguished Alumnus of the College of Music and received the College of Music’s Outstanding Alumni Award in 2000.

Boal taught piano at Hastings College (Hastings, Nebraska) and Bradley University (Peoria, Illinois) before being appointed Dean of the Peabody Conservatory of Music in 1966. In 1970, Boal joined the State University of New York at Fredonia as Professor of Piano and Chairman of Music. He was selected as the founding president of the St. Louis Conservatory and Schools for the Arts in 1973.

In 1976, Boal left the field of arts education to pursue a career in public radio. He served as director of St. Louis-based public radio station KWMU from 1976 to 1978 and joined WETA-FM (Washington, D.C.) as Vice President and General Manager in 1978.

In 1983, Boal was appointed President and Director of Arts and Performance Programs for National Public Radio. During his tenure at NPR, Boal contracted Car Talk hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi and created Performance Today—a daily, two-hour program that showcases recordings of live performances from across the United States. The nation’s most popular classical music program, Performance Today is broadcast on hundreds of radio stations across the United States, won the 2014 Gabriel Award for artistic achievement, and remains a staple of our Classical IPR programming to this day.

Time at Interlochen

On Dec. 3, 1989, Boal became the fourth president of Interlochen Center for the Arts. Under Boal’s leadership, the National Music Camp was renamed Interlochen Arts Camp to better reflect the Camp’s multidisciplinary offerings. Other highlights of Boal’s presidency include the inaugural Detroit Symphony Orchestra residency (summer 1991); the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra and Chorus’ appearance at the Mozart Bicentennial at Lincoln Center (February 1992); and the dedication of Phoenix Theatre (summer 1993).

Dean Boal cuts the ribbon during the Phoenix Theatre dedication.

Dean Boal (left) cuts the ribbon during the Phoenix Theatre dedication. 

Boal’s expertise in public radio made him a strong supporter of Interlochen’s radio station. During Boal’s administration, WIAA, its relay stations, and the institution’s recording services department were merged to form Interlochen Public Radio. In recognition of IPR’s expansion and centrality to the institution’s mission, the Board of Trustees formally recognized Interlochen Public Radio as the institution’s third business unit. The Interlochen Public Radio building was also expanded to include a new on-air studio and production facilities.

Dean Boal addresses attendees at the dedication for the expanded IPR facilities

Dean Boal addresses attendees at the dedication for the expanded IPR facilities. Photo donated by Thom Paulson. 

Boal’s most enduring and most visible contribution to Interlochen was the development of the Sasaki Associates Campus Master Plan. Catalyzed by a gift from former trustees Herbert and Barbara Dow, the institution’s staff and trustees selected architecture firm Sasaki and Associates to conduct a study of campus and make recommendations for future buildings and infrastructure updates. The resulting campus plan guided three decades of construction projects at Interlochen Center for the Arts, including dedicated spaces for all seven of the institution’s artistic disciplines, the Dennison Center for Recreation and Wellness, and additional student housing. In 2021, the opening of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow House marked the full realization of the Sasaki Associates Campus Master Plan. Interlochen was honored to recognize Boal at the celebratory events in October 2021, which he attended along with former presidents Ed Downing and Jeff Kimpton.

Boal retired from the presidency on Feb. 1, 1995. Three years later, Boal published Interlochen: A Home for the Arts, a comprehensive account of Interlochen’s history from founder Joseph Maddy’s youth to the conclusion of Boal’s presidency.

After his retirement, Boal returned to his native Colorado, where he remained involved in the arts and education. Boal served as the president of the Board of Directors for the Boulder Philharmonic; was one of the first members of the University of Colorado College of Music’s Music Advisory Board; and served two terms as a member of the CU Presents Artist Series Advisory Board. Boal was also the first Chair of the Advisory Board of the American Research Center. In 2011, Boal received the George Norlin Award for distinguished lifetime achievement in music and devotion to the betterment of society.