Rodney H. Butler (1947-2007): Dominguez Hills Bids Farewell to Chair and Professor of Music
Rodney H. Butler, professor of music at California State University, Dominguez Hills, died at his home on Nov. 27 at the age of 60. The cause of death is unknown, but is believed to be heart failure. Butler was currently serving as chair of the university’s Academic Senate, chair of the Division of Performing, Visual and Digital Arts and chair of the Department of Music within the College of Arts and Humanities.
“Rod Butler was one of our own, and one of our best,” says Dominguez Hills president Mildred García. “He was a wonderful mentor who cared deeply about our university and its people. Time and again in [his] conversations and smiles, he would convey his enthusiasm about Cal State Dominguez Hills. He was proud of the accomplishments of his students and colleagues and was invested in their futures.”
“With his clear vision and pointed humor, Rod contributed to our lives in countless ways,” says Jerry Moore, professor of anthropology. “He was a constant champion of academic freedom, educational excellence, and human decency.”
Butler was a former chair of the Faculty Personnel Committee of the Academic Senate at Dominguez Hills. As a leader, his colleagues looked to him to bridge what is often seen as a divide between faculty and administrators.
“Rod’s death has robbed us of an outstanding leader of the senate who helped to build a positive and productive relationship between the administration and the faculty,” says Munashe Furusa, associate professor and chair of Africana studies. “He was a great mentor to many of us on the Senate Executive Committee and helped us clarify a lot of issues. We will always cherish his desire and ability to build relationships, his dedication and commitment to the well-being of our campus, and his vision and pointed humor. Our thoughts go to his family and all the people whose lives he touched in one way or another.”
Butler’s students were able to depend on him for guidance during their time at Dominguez Hills and for many, long after graduation. Laura Robles, dean of graduate studies and research, says that her most vivid memory of Butler is “his ear-to-ear smile.
I saw him smile like that at [our campus’] Student Research Day this year when the Jazz and Guitar Ensembles performed at the luncheon. He was so proud of them as performers and as students. I was touched at that moment by the love he had for his department and their music.”
The Southern California native was born on September 26, 1947. A Dominguez Hills alum (Class of ’73), Butler pursued his graduate studies at the Musikhogskolen in Oslo, Norway, and the University of Oslo. He completed his Master of Arts degree and doctorate in music theory and composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He began his career at Dominguez Hills in 1991 following his tenure as music faculty and division chair of fine arts at Brookhaven Community College in Dallas, Tex. Prior to that, he served as head of the music department at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore.
Butler was a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and held membership in many scholarly and professional organizations including Phi Mu Alpha, the Society of Music Theorists, and the National Association of American Composers and Conductors. Among his honors are grants and awards from the American Scandinavian Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, the University of California Foreign Study Grant, and First Prize in the All Army Composers Arrangers Contest in 1968.
An accomplished trombonist, composer, and music theorist, Butler also turned his talents to cooking, golfing, and golf club manufacturing.
“It occurs to me that the highest tribute that we can pay to our colleague is continuing to pursue his hope of restoring the feelings of community that makes CSUDH truly different from other institutions,” says Gary Levine, emeritus faculty, interdisciplinary studies.
Butler is survived by his daughter, Audrey Butler; sons Benjamin and Andrew Butler, Andrew’s wife, Amanda; and his brother and sister-in-law, Dennis and Judy Butler. A small memorial service is being planned on campus this Friday. Donations are being accepted in Butler’s name to the CSUDH Department of Music. The department plans to establish a Rod Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund for students majoring in composition or jazz. To inquire about making a donation, call (310) 243-3543.
- Joanie Harmon