In Memoriam: Katherine Hagedorn

Pomona College music professor Katherine Hagedorn passed away
Tuesday night, Nov. 12, at her home after a long battle with cancer.

After working at the U.S. Department of
State and completing her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at Brown University, Hagedorn
arrived at Pomona in 1993 and became director of Pomona’s ethnomusicology
program. She specialized in world music and
performance, Balinese and Afro-Cuban musical traditions, and ethnomusicological

“She was a world-renowned ethnomusicologist,” Pomona President David Oxtoby said.

Hagedorn also served as associate dean of
the college from 2010 to 2012. She focused on teaching methods, faculty
collaboration, and diversity as a part of the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity.

Outside of academics, Hagedorn was a
trained classical pianist and oversaw various student music groups,
including the Pomona Balinese Gamelan ensemble.

“I always picture her with the Gamelan; for
me that was part of imagining her on campus. It meant so much to her, taking
part in that music,” Oxtoby said.

“The Gamelan is something she really fostered here and provided,” said Pomona music professor Joti Rockwell, who became close friends with Hagedorn after arriving at Pomona in 2007. “She always made sure the Gamelan group had chocolate.” 

“I think the chocolate is one thing that I’m
going to hold on to with her,” Rockwell added. “I think that was always symbolic of how she cared
about the students and people in the group, to provide for them, not just run
the group.” 

In 2000, the Council for the
Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation named
Hagedorn California Professor of the Year. In
2002, Hagedorn received the Wig Distinguished Professorship Award for
Excellence in Teaching from Pomona College, which is an award voted on by students each year.

Hagedorn’s death
came as a shock to many faculty and students.

“She was fairly
private, and secondly, she was also a very positive person, always,” Oxtoby
said. “It’s very hard to imagine that she’s not here.”

Nikki Redford PO ’14 knew Hagedorn through
the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity.

“I’m still shocked. I always pictured here
being here forever,” Redford said. “She’s probably one of the most special
people I will ever have the chance to know.”

Many of her colleagues and friends recall Hagedorn’s care for her students.

“She did tell me once, ‘It’s great being
Associate Dean, but I cannot wait to be back in the classroom with my
students.’ That was the one thing I knew she had the most passion for was just
being with her students,” Redford said.

“She was just so personally involved in her
teaching,” Oxtoby said.

Margaret Waller, a professor of Romance languages and literatures, described Hagedorn as a woman
with an incredible range of talents. Waller and Hagedorn became close friends and at one point co-coordinated the
Gender and Women’s Studies Department.

“I have known her
since she arrived at Pomona, and she’s my best friend,” Waller said. “A terrific mother, a
talented person, gifted teacher, warm and generous and kind and smart as hell.”

“Katherine was an extraordinary
human being,” she added. “With Katherine you have someone who is not just a
musician, not just a professor, not just an administrator. She’s all of those things.”

Redford described the love Hagedorn held
for her teaching, students, and subject matter. 

“She had this amazing spirit
about her that I can’t even put into words,” Redford said. “She had so much love in her entire
self and she would give back in every way possible.” 

was a music person at heart, she really was,” she added. 

George Gorse, the chair of the art and art history department, said that Hagedorn was a leader in the faculty whose successful career was cut short.

“She was a member of that department that
sort of rayed out,” Gorse said. “We have people like that in the college who look outward and
teach us a lot. Then suddenly they’re gone.”

Katherine Hagedorn is survived by her
husband, Terry Ryan, a professor at Claremont Graduate University, and her son, Gabriel.

A public viewing will be held Saturday,
Nov. 16 from 1-4 p.m. at the Todd Memorial Chapel in Claremont. There is also a memorial service scheduled for Dec. 14 at 10:30
a.m. in Bridges Hall of Music.

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