Deceased November 29, 2017
Bob died Nov. 29, 2017, near his home in Laconia, N.H., at age 90. I trust a number of you knew him well at college. Regrettably, I did not so I have learned with genuine interest about his post-Amherst career. After attending St. Paul’s, he came to “the Fairest College” expecting to major in math or physics … until he took his first course with Prof. Henry Mishkin in his sophomore year. That did it. He took every course in music we had and a few at Smith. This was to be his life.
He then went to the University of Michigan for his M.A. in music history and eventually, in 1959, his Ph.D. Waiting for an appointment took far longer than he expected, and he had to turn to selling silverware door-to-door to survive! Hard to believe for a professor whose dissertation on Jean-Marie Leclair established him as a world authority on the composer. A-R Editions published Bob’s complete edition of all 49 Leclair sonatas for violin and basso continuo. Much of his work was published here and in France.
Dr. Preston taught at the University of Oklahoma and Boston University before finding a home at Tulane where he taught for 33 years. His most significant contribution there was the creation of courses of two composers—Bach and Beethoven, Handel and Mozart, Wagner and Stravinsky. No surprise, he receive five awards for “excellence in teaching” from the honor society.
He became a certified alcohol and drug counselor and arranged his teaching schedule so that he could spend two days a week at the oldest and largest facility for the indigent in New Orleans. He said this was one of his most rewarding activities.
Bob said he lost his way with God at Amherst, regained this later in a conversion experience and continued his spiritual growth for the rest of his life. This multitalented academician was also an accomplished pianist, a certified scuba diver, a mountain guide, fisherman and boater.
He was predeceased by his wife, Mary Joanne, and survived by her daughters, his sister and two generations of family members. As one whose entire post-college effort was in the commercial field, I found Bob’s life to be inspiring and noteworthy. Another big plus for the “forty-niners.”
Gerry Reilly ’49