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In Memory of Eugene Gerlitz, 60

Longtime USC College staff member helped develop Thematic Option Program

By Kaitlin Solimine
October 2004

Eugene F. Gerlitz, Jr., a long-time USC College staff member who was also associate dean of business affairs of the College from 1986 to 1994, died Sept. 13 of a heart attack. He was 60.

An integral part of the USC College community, Gerlitz worked closely with the dean of the College as well as other College deans and faculty. He joined the USC staff in 1966, after completing his master’s degree in music theory and composition at USC.

Former dean of the College Gerald Segal began working with Gerlitz in the 1970s. “I well remember Gene’s competence and his gentleness in handling and helping the faculty,” says Segal.

“ Gene had a real understanding of academic issues and a deep respect for academic values,” says Edwin McCann, USC College professor of philosophy. “He had a genuinely human — and humane — approach to administration. These were not separate attitudes, but were really two sides of an abiding and deep character.”

Karen Segal, whom Gerlitz helped to develop the College’s Thematic Option Program into an established, popular and respected academic program, also has praise for Gerlitz’s work in the College. “The quality in Gene I cherished above all,” she says, “was his ardent love of the liberal arts and his passionate interest in and dedication to education—of the whole human being, including the soul.”

This passion also extended into other realms; many of Gerlitz’s colleagues and friends note that his true talent was as a musician, both composer and accomplished pianist. His primary interest was in sacred choral music. Gerlitz spent much of his life, and specifically the years since leaving USC in 1994, writing about the decline of serious sacred music in the church. His last three compositions on sacred texts were written for and recently performed at Evensong in York Minster, England, by Cantori Domino, a Santa Monica-based choral group co-founded by his wife, Mary.  

“Eugene was not interested in quantity of output,” says Maurita Phillips-Thornburgh, founder and artistic director of Cantori Domino, “but rather in making a clear, authentic and artistic musical statement.”

Gerlitz’s dedication to the College will be remembered by many. When Robin Romans, current director of the College’s thematic option program first met Gerlitz, he was struck by his boundless willingness to help people.

“He always went to the place he was needed,” says Romans. “In this way, Gene made a real difference in the College.”

Gerlitz is survived by his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Eugene F. Gerlitz of Salem, Oregon; two brothers, Stephen of Simi Valley and Harvey of Salem; and his wife, Mary.

Donations in Gerlitz’s memory may be made to Cantori Domino, 23855 Sarda Road, Valencia, California 91355.