Professor Dean Witten, Director of the Percussion Department at Rowan University for 39 years, passed away in the early morning of Friday March 16, 2018. He left peacefully in his sleep, at home with his family, after a two year battle with colon cancer. Professor Witten started teaching at Rowan University back in 1979 when the school was called Glassboro State College, and he was only the second professor of percussion since GSC/Rowan began their music department. His direction grew the percussion program at Rowan to a high stature and reputation, graduating many successful percussion students who are now professional musicians and teachers around the world. His teaching career spanned forty-five years, touching the lives of hundreds of students at Rowan, as well as at Trinity University (TX), St. Mary's University (TX), the University of San Antonio (TX), and Alfred University (NY). During his time at Rowan, he commissioned and premiered 50 new works for percussion ensemble and 32 of his percussion students won the Rowan University Orchestra's Annual Concerto Competition. As a performer Dean played percussion in the San Antonio Symphony (TX) from 1973-78. He also performed all over the world, with an extensive list of celebrities including, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Mathis, and Tony Bennett, as well as in the house bands of the Claridge and Resorts Casinos in Atlantic City (NJ), in the orchestra pits of many Broadway shows (NYC), and was the percussionist with Frank Sinatra for eight years. He recorded with Frank Sinatra, Celine Dion, Harry Connick Jr., and can be heard on multiple movie and Broadway show soundtracks. He held a Master of Music degree from Trinity University and a Bachelor of Music degree and Performer's Certificate from the Eastman School of Music and was an alumnus of the Boston Latin School. Dean was a proud union member of both the American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Musicians, New York City local 802 and an active member of the Percussive Arts Society. He was a fiercely brave, compassionate, loyal, honest, and generous man who was the definition of integrity. He was a model father and husband who worked tirelessly for his family and a teacher devoted to his students, whom many considered a father figure. Dean was predeceased by his brother Manley Witten and his mother Shirley Witten. He is survived by his wife of 45 years Susan Witten, son Dr. Matthew Witten and partner Jason Haremza, daughter Allison Witten and partner José Perez, sister-in-law Dr. Sanae Inagami, nephew Mason Witten, niece Aiko Witten, his in-laws Joseph and Florence Steinberg and his beloved doggies, Lucy and Charlie.
A funeral home visitation will be held on Sunday, April 8, 2018 from 10am to 11:30am followed by a memorial service beginning at 11:30am from Rone Funeral Home 1110 East Chestnut Avenue, Vineland, NJ 08360
In lieu of flowers, donations could be made in Dean's memory to one of his favorite charities: The Elephant Sanctuary - https://www.elephants.com or to the Rowan University Foundation, 201 Mullica Hill Road, Glassboro, NJ 08028. Please include "Percussion Scholarship In Memory of Dean Witten" in the check memo line. https://www.rowan.edu/home/foundation
ARRANGEMENTS are under the supervision of Rone Funeral Service, 1110 East Chestnut Avenue, Vineland, NJ 08360
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