Hillman music association bestows award on Robert Coon

Wednesday June 19, 2019Roger Coda
Hillman Commemorative Service Award recipients
Recipients of the Hillman Commemorative Service Award are (from left): Barbara M. Yochym, Albert W. Foley, Maureen Pagano, Robert E. Coon, Jean M. Malinoski and J. Brien Murphy.

Robert E. Coon, a longtime administrator at Fredonia and former president of the Hillman Memorial Music Association Board of Directors, received the Jessie Hillman Award for Excellence at a ceremony held on Wednesday, June 19, at Shorewood Country Club.

“His dedication to being the president of the Hillman board for 25 years makes him an outstanding and worthy recipient of this recognition,” said Daniel L. Bromsted, president of the Hillman board.

The Hillman Memorial Music Association bestows the Jessie Hillman Award for Excellence to recognize dedicated and respected musicians and educators who have demonstrated a passion for teaching or performance, or when excellence needs to be recognized.

A 1950 graduate of Fredonia, Mr. Coon served the university for 35 years, as Director of Admissions, Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs.  Often referred to as “Mr. Fredonia,” Coon retired in 1991.

The award is named after Jessie Hillman, a graduate of Brockport Normal School who joined the faculty at the Fredonia Normal School in 1884. She is credited with being "Fredonia's Musical Leader" and with having established a music major program that had its first graduates in 1889. Miss Hillman became the principal piano teacher at the school and continued her teaching, with two sabbatical breaks, until her retirement in 1923.

For 20 more years, until her death in 1943, Hillman continued to teach private piano students and to be a significant force for musical culture in the Fredonia community.

Past award recipients include: Helen Tinch Williams, Class of 1960, in 2010; Dr. Frank Pullano, Class of 1956, and Sallie (Shapely) Pullano, Class of 1958, in 2011; and Julie Newell, former Fredonia opera producer for 27 years, Class of 1982, in 2018.

Current Hillman board members include: Daniel L. Bromsted, president; Gileen W. French, treasurer; Dr. Richard Friemann, Dr. Jessica Gugino, scholarship chair; Lisa Hawk, secretary; Ellen H. Meister, vice president; Ms.Newell; Charles M. Notaro; Dr. Linda N. Phillips, patron chair; and Coon, honorary member/past president. Ex-officio members of the board include June Miller-Spann, the Fredonia College Foundation liaison, and Dr. Robert Strauss, who acts in an advisory capacity as the current opera producer at Fredonia.

In addition, five past Hillman board members were honored at the ceremony, including Dr. J. Brien Murphy (17 years); Jean M. Malinoski, (16 years); Barbara M. Yochym, (five years); Maureen Pagano (four years) and Albert W. Foley (two years).

The 2019 Hillman Opera will be Massenet’s “Cendrillon” (Cinderella). The fully-staged production featuring talented students from the School of Music will be presented in Marvel Theatre on Nov. 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 17 at 2 p.m.

The Hillman Opera, which celebrated 60 years of annual opera production in 2017, is distinguished by providing one of the longest running, annual, fully-staged opera programs for undergraduate students in the country. The production is a highlight of each academic year, and the professional caliber attracts a large and enthusiastic audience from the surrounding community.

In addition, more than $10,000 a year is awarded by the Hillman Memorial Music Association through scholarships to selected music students through the Hillman endowment.


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