UAPB Offers Condolences on the Passing of Dr. Michael J. Bates

Dr. Michael J. Bates (1944 – 2022)

Mary Hester-Clifton | Communications UAPB

Pine Bluff, AR – The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) is mourning the loss of a valued and talented Pride member. On Friday July 8, 2022, we learned of the passing of Dr. Michael J Bates. Our beloved Dr. Bates, professor at UAPB and director emeritus of the Vesper Choir, began work at UAPB on August 15, 1977 as an assistant professor in the music department. Dr. Bates would spend the next forty-one years deeply embedded in the musical and choral pursuits of the UAPB and the State of Arkansas. While he started out as an assistant music teacher, he eventually taught several courses including music history, music theory, and music appreciation.

In 1999, he was appointed Director of the UAPB Vesper Choir and served in that position until his retirement in 2018. According to UAPB Chancellor Dr. Laurence B. Alexander, “Dr. Bates was an extraordinary musician and choirmaster. For decades he has dedicated himself to preparing students for the highest level of achievement in Vesper Choir performances. Dr. Bates seriously wanted his choir students to have international experience as well. So he took on the responsibility of raising funds and making plans to take the choir on trips abroad. While Dr. Bates was best known for directing the choir, we also experienced his gentle, caring style as a teacher, head of the music department, and chairman of the Faculty and Staff Senate. He had a huge influence on the whole UAPB community, the local community, the state and beyond. The University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees conferred on him the title of Professor and Director Emeritus of the Vesper Choir when he retired on June 30, 2018.

Dr. Bates, director of the Vesper Choir (right) and members of the Vesper Choir with UAPB Chancellor Dr. Laurence B. Alexander (center)

During her tenure with the UAPB, the choir raised over $1 million in funds and performed in 23 states and internationally in Spain and Italy. While employed by the UAPB, Dr. Bates continued to enjoy success as a solo performer and figure within the Arkansas music community.

UAPB Vesper Choir pictured with Dr. Michael J. Bates as director of the Vesper Choir (pictured far right)

We echo the sentiments of Mr. Jerron Liddell, current director of the UAPB Vesper Choir, regarding Dr. Bates. “We will never forget Dr. Bates’ tremendous impact on the Vesper Choir, the University and the community of Pine Bluff. Doc was an amazing musician, director and person. I am grateful to have called him my mentor and friend. I don’t think most people really understand what a family the Vesper Choir is and continues to be, even through four generations of leaders. As families do, we will stick together, support each other, remember and celebrate a man who gave so much of himself to so many. Doc’s legacy will live on through each of us.

We send our prayers and thoughts to his family, friends, colleagues, students, organizations and communities inspired by his abilities and contributions. We will share information about services and arrangements as they become available.

UAPB Vesper Choir – Touring Italy with Dr. Michael J. Bates, Director of the Vesper Choir (pictured far left/back row)

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