A Change in Ministry: Fr. Kevin Waters, S.J., Retires

by Colleen McLean

After thirty-four years as music professor, administrator and residence hall chaplain, Fr. Kevin Waters, S.J., will retire from Gonzaga University at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year. He will continue his sacramental ministries as well as spiritual direction in addition to devoting time to composing new works of music. Reflecting on his teaching career, Fr. Waters highlights that good teaching grows from an equal love for the material and students. As an instructor, he encouraged students to be open to exploring and experiencing the fullness of the world while rigorously studying the fundamentals of music.

Looking back on his career at Gonzaga, Fr. Waters is most proud of the growth of the Music Department. It is the oldest undergraduate music program in a Jesuit university in the United States. Under his leadership, the department developed a full-time, tenure-track faculty position in orchestra, first with Sister Xavier Mary Courvoisier, followed by current Professor of Music Dr. Kevin Hekmatpanah. Additionally, the wind and band program grew with the hiring of Dr. Robert Spittal to complement the strong jazz and choral programs. Finally, Fr. Waters participated in the hiring of Dr. Peter Hamlin for the music education program.

Fr. Waters also speaks passionately about the importance of forming strong mentoring and teaching relationships with students. He takes great joy in seeing their growth and development as both individual persons and musicians. His curriculum has centered on the fundamentals of composition in order to help students learn to read and write music in a variety of styles as well as find their own influences among composers.

Fr. Waters first came to Gonzaga as an undergraduate studying philosophy as a young Jesuit. After graduating in 1958, he began studying music composition privately, mostly in Los Angeles. He worked with composer Roy Harris of UCLA while completing graduate degrees in theology at Santa Clara University. In 1970, he was awarded a Doctor of Music Arts in Composition from the University of Washington. From 1969 until the early 1980s, Fr. Waters taught music at Seattle University. He was also a member of the summer music faculty at Creighton University from 1977 to 1980.

Fr. Waters returned to Gonzaga University in 1983 as Professor of Fine Arts and Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. In subsequent years, he served as Acting Academic Vice President and on the Board of Trustees.

He will be missed by faculty, staff and students. Senior composition major Jacob McLain said, “He taught me to explore new ideas and how to write music that inspires people. It’s thanks to Fr. Waters always pushing me that I have grown so much as a composer.”

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