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Celebrating the Career of Institute of Jazz Studies Director

Mayor Cory Booker, Dr. Clement Price, and Dan Morgenstern
Mayor Cory Booker, Dr. Clement Price, and Dan Morgenstern

Marianne Gaunt and Dan Morgenstern
Marianne Gaunt and Dan Morgenstern

Interim Chancellor Philip Yeagle presents Dan Morgenstern with Rutgers University Medal
Interim Chancellor Philip Yeagle presents Dan Morgenstern with Rutgers University Medal

After 35 years as Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies and more than 50 years as a leader in the world of jazz, Dan Morgenstern has retired. The eight-time Grammy award winner, researcher, journalist, critic, and editor, Dan Morgenstern has served as director of the Institute of Jazz Studies (IJS), the largest collection of jazz and jazz-related materials in the world, since 1976.

On April 17, 2012, a collection of jazz luminaries and aficionados, and Rutgers University and civic leaders gathered to celebrate Dan Morgenstern's career at the Newark Club in Newark, NJ. The retirement event in his honor celebrated his many achievements, with a night of memorable speeches, musical tributes, and a video presentation.

Dr. Clement Price, Director of the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience, emceed the event, and presented a glowing tribute to Morgenstern.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker opened the program, citing the importance of jazz in American history and in the African American community. The mayor described the place of jazz in his own life and Dan Morgenstern's many contributions to the seminal American art form, noting how fortunate Newark has been to have such a key figure in the community for so long.

Originally housed in Bradley Hall on the Rutgers-Newark campus, the Institute of Jazz Studies became a part of the University Libraries in 1966 and moved to its current location on the 4th Floor of the John Cotton Dana Library in 1994.

University Librarian Marianne Gaunt talked of the special place the IJS has had within the Rutgers Library system, and the particular excellence Morgenstern has displayed as the longtime leader.

Interim Chancellor Philip Yeagle presented Morgenstern with the Rutgers University Medal, one of the highest honors bestowed by the University, on behalf of President Richard McCormick.

The accolades included humor. In a letter of tribute, New Jersey Performing Arts Center CEO John Schreiber wrote that "Next to Joey Bushkin, Johnny Mercer, and Joe Venuti, Dan Morgenstern has to be the hippest white guy in the history of jazz."

Director of Dana Library and Assistant Chancellor Mark Winston spoke of Morgenstern's many contributions and achievements and suggested Morgenstern's apprehension to leave the Institute, noting that although his official retirement date was a few months ago, "I know he doesn't want to leave us, since his office has hardly changed."

Former Dana Library Director Lynn Mullins described how much she enjoyed working with Morgenstern and cited his recent inclusion on the New Jersey Star-Ledger's list of "Jersey's 20 Biggest Brains." Librarian and IJS Sound Archivist Vincent Pelote and former Associate Director of IJS Ed Berger presented a humorous take on their more than 30 years of working with Morgenstern.

Members of the IJS Advisory Board David Cayer and Henk Edelman also spoke. Henk Edelman, also former University Librarian, who was instrumental in moving the collection into the Library System, spoke about the history of IJS, beginning as the collection of jazz scholar Marshall Stearns, and eventually finding a home at Rutgers University.

A particular highlight of the evening was the musical tributes by renowned musicians clarinetist Anat Cohen, pianist Daryl Sherman, trumpeter Randy Sandke, guitarist James Chirillo, and bassist and IJS staff member Joe Peterson.

The admiration poured in from guests who went up to the podium during the open mike portion of the program.

A special video presentation created by Mark Papianni featured interviews with IJS and WBGO radio staff about Morgenstern's vast knowledge of the jazz world, his writing, and their memorable experiences with him.

When the time came for Morgenstern's own speech, he began modestly, commenting on the tributes with humor, "I don't know who these people are talking about." He thanked all for their attendance and spoke about his memories of working at the Institute.

In the Rutgers' Medal citation President McCormick addressed Morgenstern's "exceptional contributions to preserving, promoting, and advancing our understanding of jazz... In your work as Director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers-Newark since 1976, you have built the Institute into the largest archival collection of jazz and jazz-related materials in the world and a tremendous source of pride among our university community."

"You have had such an exemplary life doing so much for jazz. I for one am speaking for many others who applaud you and thank you."
-- Sonny Rollins

"I´ve known Dan for 35 years, and every note he's ever blown as an author, editor, educator, and historian has been true and pure from the heart."
-- John Schreiber, CEO of NJPAC

Posted May 2012