Henry Tate, a professor in the Liberal Arts Department, recently passed away. The following letter to the Berklee community was written by Jay Kennedy, vice president for academic affairs/provost.
Dear Berklee community,
It is with much sadness that I write to tell you that Henry Tate, professor and long-time Berklee faculty member in the Liberal Arts Department, has passed away. We are not sure when he died, only that his neighbors found him yesterday.
Henry was a Berklee legend, a great teacher, and an inspiration to many students particularly around the subject of art. He began teaching at Berklee in 1985 and retired last year. Simone Pilon, chair of the Liberal Arts Department, writes, “He was an exceptional teacher, a compelling storyteller, and one of the kindest, gentlest people I have had the pleasure to know. He touched countless students and colleagues during his time at Berklee. He will be greatly missed.”
Henry’s website contains the following quote: “My job, I tell my students, is to be their guide, to help them articulate what they already know. For me, that’s what the process of education is—it’s the act of leading out. So I tell my students to think about a symphony. There is going to be an introduction, or an ‘entry’ in painterly terms. The leitmotif in a musical composition is a ‘directional’ in a painting. And then we have major movements, which carry the viewer’s eye around the composition and lead us to a finale, which we call an ‘exit.’ When showing my students the importance of color and why we have to be careful about color, I’ll say, for example, ‘Red is almost a D major. You put that in the wrong place, and your composition will fall apart.’
“Since I’m also a painter, I’ll say to the students, the only difference between what you do when you’re composing a tune and what I do when I’m creating a painting is the tools that we use. We come from the same creative background. Whether someone is writing a poem or composing the symphony or painting a fresco or sculpting a work of art, the difference is the tools that we use. And then I quote Robert Frost, who tells us, ‘It’s knowing what to do with things that counts.'”
Henry earned a bachelor of arts degree from Villanova University, a second bachelor of arts from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master of arts degree and Ph.D. from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. He held curatorial positions in the education departments of the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts, the Worcester Art Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Additionally, he was an educational consultant and lecturer at Museum of Fine Arts and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, and the James Joyce Society in New York and Dublin.
We have no information on funeral services at this time. Information will be sent if we receive it.
Vice President for Academic Affairs/Vice Provost
Berklee College of Music
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This is indeed very sad news….. a great loss for our community, faculty and students alike…..
Such a fine person, exceptional I should say…..
I really appreciated Henry Tate so much.
I am saddened to think he was alone at the time of his death. So unlike life, when people flocked to him just to hear him talk about any old thing–I always felt enlightened after I left his presence.
I am deeply saddened to learn of Henry’s passing. Tears flow as I write this email.
Henry was more than my teacher, he became a dear friend and truly a part of my family.
From my time at Berklee, after graduation more than 20 years ago, and during the years beyond, Henry and I remained in contact and met whenever I was back in Boston. He also regularly corresponded with my parents whom he’d met many years ago.
Henry was such a special soul. He was a life guide to me. His friendship and encouragement, I directly attribute to so much of my own life’s work…from my appreciation of art, to my music career, work in the music industry, to my time on the Berklee Board of Trustees, to my current role teaching for Berklee online, and most importantly for my excitement and love of the beauty in the world and for kindness. All of that, is in a great part, due to Henry.
I am saddened that during my most recent trip to Boston this summer, I was unable to make contact with him.
Henry was a great colleague and an inspiration to me. His enthusiasm for teaching was infectious and he inspired me years ago to look at my own teaching differently and each conversation with him was a fountain of great information.
I always valued the privilege of speaking with him about art and music, and with just his sweet “good morning,” he made me feel so grateful and proud to be teaching at our institution.
Really a wonderful man.
The art/music/educational world lost a beautiful soul. Henry Augustine Tate passed away this week. He taught Art History at Berklee, and was one of my favorite professors. Since I went to art school before I came to Berklee, but my grades wouldn’t transfer, I had to take Art History all over again at music school! Henry seemed like a mystical man’s-man from a bygone era, eloquently spoken, a true master of his studies and a fiery and passionate lecturer. Our classes were mostly lectures designed around a few of the most famous paintings, but we touched on everything, from technique, to history, to religion, to love, to James Joyce quotes, to Irish whiskey, and back. The lectures were punctuated every few weeks with walking field trips to his other home, the Museum of Fine Arts, where he held curatorial positions, and was an educational consultant and lecturer. On these walks to the museum, he prepared us for what we were to experience when we got to see the actual paintings up close and in person, where he would then engage us and you could really see his true passion come out. I was one of those people that always had his hand up in class and wanted to answer every question, because he re-invigorated my love for fine arts, and I wanted him to know that. He actually told the class one time, “Somebody else, besides Mr. Weiner, answer the question please.” I remember feeling like the biggest brown-noser, but I honestly was just captivated by what he had to say and wanted to be part of the conversation. The week before the final exam, he asked me to stay after class. I thought I’d done something wrong, but after everyone left, he told me that there was no need for me to come in the following week to take the exam, as he had already decided to pass me. He was so happy, which in turn made me so happy. We stood up together and he told me how great it was to have me in his class and gave me the biggest hug and a smooch on the cheek!!
I’ll never forget it.
I only saw him rarely since then, walking around campus, but I recently saw him a few weeks ago through the crowd, walking to the train, and was shocked at how unsteady he seemed. I felt like I should go up to him and say hi, and tell him how wonderful of a teacher I thought he was, but I ended up jumping on my train instead. When I heard the news today, it broke my heart. RIP Henry Augustine Tate, you will be missed.
Tim Paul Weiner
I always felt like Henry was Berklee’s Santa. Such a positive man who has changed the way I see art and my out look on life. Last time I saw him was at the end of winter semester when he was retiring which also saddened me. The most interesting thing I remember from him is that the Irish color is not green. It’s really a royal blue. Never forgot that fact since we still do St. Patricks Day wrong.
I’m incredibly shocked and saddened to learn of Henry Tate’s passing. There were only truly a handful of teachers at Berklee who left a lasting impression on me and how I view art of all mediums–Henry was one of them. I’ll always remember he and I discussing James Joyce, Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso and countless other artists with his thick Irish accent and coffee breath to rival my own.
Wow… What a shock. Incredibly sad news.
When I think of some of my most influential and greatest teachers in my life, Henry Tate is right up there with Mark Kohler and Kenwood Dennard. He gave to me what I know he gives a lot of his students, a feeling of academic excitement. As you know, I’m not the only Berklee student that struggled with and had been turned off to liberal arts and academics in general. Henry, with incredible ease and poise, woke up every student who entered his classroom or who stopped by his office, and showed them the power of academia. Not in the way that a preacher might inspire a congregation, rather he had this ability to let us each of us find our own inspiration and excitement in the context of his offerings.
Henry’s presence could be felt way beyond the classroom. Whether it was passing him on Mass. Ave., or the inability to stop thinking or laughing about something he said in class or at the museum the day before, I rarely went a day at Berklee without feeling his influence.
The world has lost one of the greatest educators I have ever known, and as devastating as that is, I can’t help but feel so grateful for the time I got to know him and learn from him. I will miss him.
No matter how much you were focused on your music classes, rehearsing, chasing gigs, etc., Henry’s was the liberal arts class you simply had to take to get the full Berklee experience. A walk through a section of the MFA with him was almost overwhelming — the man was an encyclopedia of wisdom and knowledge and he could wax poetically for ages about any painting you asked about.
No matter what his age, Henry Tate was an old soul who seemed like he’d led a hundred lives. He had a bottomless well of great stories to tell, and you couldn’t help but be drawn into his kind eyes when he spoke to you with that amazing Irish/Welsh voice. The ultimate professor and friend, and almost certainly the ultimate dinner party guest. I’ll raise tonight’s glass of Jameson’s to you Henry!
Henry’s BTOT lectures were unforgettable experiences. His warmth and theatric delivery filled the room. He had an unrivaled command of language and ability to explain everything in broad historic & cultural contexts. I always meant to audit one of his classes but regretably, I waited too long.
One day in Henry Tates’ History of Art class, which met at the Boston Museum of Fine Art, he pointed at a painting of a ravine by Claude Monet and said “Debussy” and then gestured at another painting of a ravine by Vincent Van Gogh and growled “Strrrrraaavvinsky!” In a single lightning bolt moment he helped me understand the difference between impressionism and expressionism using language I could comprehend.
I was not a classically trained musician but his History of Art class taught me and a sometimes unwilling student body of people who’d rather be listening to music than looking at art, that an understanding of art, including music, was a passport to understanding any other kind of art.
R.I.P. Henry. I don’t know where a “born-again druid” goes in the afterlife but I hope for your sake they have Guinness (and plenty of it).
My heart is broken over the loss of a favorite friend and colleague, Berklee College of Music Professor, Henry Tate. When I first started at Berklee, Henry was the keynote speaker at Berklee’s Opening Day. I thought right then, that this man exudes warmth, eloquence, class and brilliance. Three years later, I would become Henry’s colleague when I transferred to the Liberal Arts department. There, Henry and I instantly became friends. He shared his gifts as an educator, advisor, mentor, artist and genuine friendship with all that knew him. Henry was a giver. His generosity was ever so humbling. I have so many wonderful memories of my friend, which I want to share: One day I walked into my office in the Liberal Arts department to find Henry hanging a beautiful painting on my wall. He had just returned from his sabbatical and spent time in Spain. He thought of me, and brought back the painting for me. He made me promise that no matter where I go, to always take the painting with me. Which I did. After transitioning to the Music Production and Engineering department, Henry called me and said that he was stopping by to hang the painting in my office. I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones, who was invited to Henry’s home. I fondly remember the cold winter evening, going to Henry’s home, steps away from campus. I walked into his beautiful home, which was filled with opulent artwork, a gazillion books and treasures that he had collected throughout his travels. He gave me a tour and graciously told me stories of some of his art pieces. Henry had prepared a fabulous Irish dinner and dessert! I must say that Henry is the person that introduced me to Irish Whiskey! He served it to me in a gorgeous Waterford crystal goblet, of course! We sat eating this beautiful meal, chatting about art, music, Ireland, our families, his love of his students and Berklee. After 4 hours of what was a treasured evening, In Henry Tate fashion, displaying the true and honorable gentleman that he was, he helped me with my coat, hooked his arm around mine and walked me to the train station. Once again, Henry strolled into my office in his ever so stately manner and saw a large photograph of DJ Henry on my desk. He asked me about DJ. As I told him DJ’s story, he wept. I came back later to find that Henry had taken DJ’s picture to his house and framed it and left it on my desk. I could not wait to tell Henry that there was a portrait of members of my family on display at the Museum of Fine Arts. Henry had worked there for many years, before coming to Berklee. Once again, a beautiful surprise by Henry. He had purchased the print at the museum, framed it and left it on my desk. He offered to host my family at the Museum at the showing of our family photo and give my family a private tour of the museum. He could not wait to meet my cousin Latrice Olbina, who is our family historian and the person who has traced our roots-Some back to Ireland. So Henry and I had something in common from day one! My love and respect for Professor Henry Tate will forever live on in my heart. It was an honor and a privilege to know him and for him to consider me a close friend. He was a man who gave of himself, unselfishly-always. I send my sincere and heart-felt condolences to Henry’s family, friends and colleagues. Thank you for always thinking of me, Henry. I miss you, my friend…..
When I see a Madonna and child from the European Medieval to Renaissance periods I not only see a glimpse into the artist’s culture, I sigh. And think of one of the best teachers ever. We love you, Henry Tate. Thank you for the magic.
I’m staggered by the news of Henry Tate’s passing and heartbroken to hear that he was apparently alone at the time of his passing. The Henry Tate I remember was so inspirational, so vibrant, so fully alive. I, like many others, count him among my favorite professors–it’s clear by the outpouring I’ve seen here, on social media, on the sidewalk/hallways/buildings that comprise Berklee’s campus that he was beloved and treasured. He will be sorely missed.
It cannot be understated how much of an inspiration Henry Tate was to me and my life. I never truly understood the power and significance of art and it’s place historically until taking his Art History course and every other one he offered. After noticing my celtic tattoo, he referred to me as “Sean” – an Irish version of my birth name, John. He took the time to research and give me tips and notes for traveling to Italy and France after graduation. My fondest memory will always be a Valentine’s Day tour at the MFA where he took a group, including myself and my girlfriend, around the museum to expound about romantic art and poetry. At one point, he read a set of celtic wedding vows that he personally handed to us at the end of the day. After becoming engaged a few years later, my wife and I spoke those same vows to each other during the ceremony on our wedding day. He will forever be a remembered not only for that special day, but for his kind heart, his gift to teach – spreading both knowledge and joy – and for being truly great man. You will be missed, my friend.
This is awful news. I took a class with Henry at Berklee and he was an absolute legend. Hugely entertaining, often profane (I’ll never forget his explanation of the maypole) and a lover of all things Irish. I last bumped into him at a departure gate in Logan Airport, and always regretted not keeping in touch. Rest In Peace Henry Tate.
An incredible human being. I’m glad I was able to know him for a short but impactful time. Thank you Henry.
I’m very sad about this news. 20 years later and I still remember most of what I learned from Henry. His lectures on form and flow forever changed the way I viewed and understood painting. RIP Henry. You were one a of a kind.
Lisa Orchard Conant
I remember walking around the MFA for class with Henry and he would put his arm around myself and another student and tell us stories about the artists rather than lecture. He would connect the art and music world and I have since considered him one of the best teachers I have ever met. I value so much of how he taught that I modeled some of my own teaching style from his. I am so grateful for him as a person and will always remember him with a smile and a desire to be half the teacher he was. This post comes with a smile for his memory and tears for everyone’s loss. For those that were closest to him, you are in my heart. <3 Lisa Orchard Conant Berklee Alumnus 2001
Henry was perhaps the most influential teacher I have ever had in my life thus far, and he has always been my number one role model.
I have taken a few of his Art History courses while in college, and they were my absolute favorite courses of all time, though I went to a music college. He always explained to us the origins of the words used in class or in his talks. One particular example we all remember him saying is the meaning of the word “educate” as the act of leading out. I always carry around that explanation in my head as I go into the educational field myself.
I can still recall Henry standing in front of paintings at the MFA saying, “follow the Red!” – showing us how our eyes move through a painting. I also vividly remember his passionate talks about Sargent’s paintings at the Gardner museum, which eventually led me to become their first Japanese museum volunteer/guide ever.
Henry showed us to appreciate the art deeper, to look beyond the labels and canvases – which was at the beginning such an eye-opening experience. His approach/method has slowly transformed my learning habits.
Henry was a true Renaissance man, with such talent and passion for his chosen field. He also had a kindest soul. He was always advising students to eat more vegetables and less junk food, calling himself “Uncle Henry” in class as if he is a family member of ours. Whenever I ran into him on the street, he always gave a warmest hug with a big smile while asking about my day.
Thank you professor Henry Tate, for leading/guiding me over the years – I am and will always be grateful. He has touched/inspired so many people in his lifetime. May your body and soul rest in peace.
He was such a sweet guy. While taking his art history class, I told him that I really liked the idea of having a specific Monet painting in my studio. He went to the MFA and bought that print for me, along with amother one that he picked to pair with it for me to hang in my studio. He refused payment for them just telling me that he hoped it would help my creativity flow in the studio.
I really wish I had some recordings of him. The way he spoke was just incredible.
I’m so saddened by the news! By far the greatest teacher I ever had. Thank you Henry.
Henry Tate will forever be the professor, mentor and friend whom I remember not just with the utmost fondness, but also with a respect that only someone so truly dedicated, and so truly inspirational could ever demand.
The way he shared his passion for both art and music, his cultural knowledge and even simply his genuine concern and advocacy for the wellbeing of his students was something that I, and my peers who have been so upset by this news, will always treasure and remember.
He was a rare gem. To have been one of many students of his will forever have a positive and lasting impact on my life. Thank you, Henry Tate.
A sad day indeed but one that brings up great memories of inspiration, wisdom, creativity, history, dedication, vision and so much more. thank you dear Henry I will always remember you as one of my greatest teachers.
Best kept secret of Berklee. No doubt. Still surprised at what I learned from Henry. I wasn’t interested at all in fine art until Henry. After Henry, I can spend an hour with a painting, and still not be done.
What a loss.
“Until next time, friends.”
I didn’t know Henry Tate well, but he was and is
always lauded with warmth and praise by so many
if my students and colleagues who had the good fortune
to learn from him. His sparkle , warmth, heart and sincerity were apparent in his presence and passion for sharing heart. The world is a far better place for his life, good deeds, talent and optimism.
Theresa Tscheschke Gunal
All I can say is thank you Dr. Henry Tate. You will be missed. History of Art became one of my favorite classes even though I was initially sad that I had to take the class when my credits wouldn’t transfer. Dr. Tate opened my eyes to new way of thinking about history, art, and the world around me. I realized there is no need to take life so seriously. True art is a way to express yourself; conforming to the “rules of art” is not what makes a painting, song great but when you find a way within those confines to still express an idea. The greatest paintings always had a hidden gem an idea you didn’t notice at first. Thanks for teaching this to us. You will be greatly missed.
Professor Tate always seemed to me to be like a character from jumped out of a movie. He fit the part so perfectly and it always made me feel excited to take his class. He showed me a personal item he owned, a page from Gutenburg’s printing press, when I mentioned my love of history. It was no big deal for him to say, do you have a minute? I have something I think you’d love to see…
What a great guy.
Professor Tate may well have made me the composer I am more so than any music teacher ever did. There are too many memories of his lectures to count. Jameson’s to you, old soul.
Quite a few years back I was advising a student through his last semester and he was enrolled in one Henry’s classes (likely History of Art 2, at the time). The student revealed to Henry that he was having trouble getting a reservation for a post- graduation ceremony brunch for his family from Wisconsin. Henry said not too worry and why didn’t the student just bring his family and any other Berklee folks over to his (Henry’s) apartment on The Fenway for brunch that day. So, the student invited my wife and I and we expected to have some pastries and coffee at Henry’s after the ceremony was finished.
When we got there he had transformed his dining room into a buffet with all sorts of foods, coffee, wine and desserts. Henry was in an apron moving about while he he entertained the student’s family with details about all the art hanging in his place (including some of his own). There were faculty members who had worked with the student there, as well, and Henry was the utmost in graciousness all afternoon making sure everyone was comfortable, fed and enjoying themselves. It was an absolutely lovely afternoon and I realized that day that Henry was one of those great teachers whose lessons don’t end at the ten minute before the hour mark. His teaching was not just about art but about the spirit and humanity that inspires art.
I will miss our ‘street talks’ and our affinity for all things Irish.
Peace Henry – safe travels
Joseph A Tate
Friends:You do not know me and I did not enjoy the Berklee experience. But I did experience Henry. I am his brother,Joe. I am so touched to read your messages about Henry.Your memories of Henry bring tears to my eyes. We loved Henry very much and learned much about the arts from his words. Whether at holiday dinners in Philadelphia or our visits with him to the “Museum” (there was only one in his mind) his entertaining and mind expanding thoughts humbled me. I would think,”how does my younger brother know so much.” He was a treasure and we miss him already. We, as you, must appreciate the time we had with this magical person.Thank you and goodbye Henry.
I did not attend Berklee nor have I ever taken a class with this incredible man. As a staff member, and new to my training role, Henry Tate was one of my first “students” in an Introduction to the Mac training session that I led. He seemed embarrassed and was apologetic about knowing so little about technology. We sat together for several hours, spanning several sessions, and became friends as a result. But wasn’t that how it was with Henry? He always made you feel like time spent with him was time invested in building a friendship. Over the years, he and I would have many conversations on the street about his life and his work and those conversations always ended with him thanking me for our first meetings with him as my “student”. He was a remarkable man and will be sorely missed. A piece of our institution has crumbled a bit with his passing.
Patricia Tate Stewart
Henry was always in my life. He was my older brother, my best friends (of which he had many) and my first teacher. He shared with me his love of art, music and poetry. It was the greatest gift anyone ever gave me, except for his love and precious time. I can not imagine a world without Henry.
Patrick J Powers
Henry was a dear classmate of mine at Villanova University. A gentle and joyful soul who could always make you laugh either at superiors or himself. I am so sad at his passing. May he rest in peace.
The news of Henry’s passing saddens me…he was in my Class at Villanova University and before that at the Augustinian Novitiate. We were members of the Order of St. Augustine at one time. Our birthdays were close, so that means for five years…our formative years…we prayed together, ate together, played together and enjoyed many good times together whether studying or vacationing. May he rest in peace…he was a good friend.
Henry was not only my cousin, but my friend. I just wanted to thank all of you for sharing your memories. What a wonderful tribute to a truly amazing man. Thank you.
Henry’s visits to our home, and our visits to his home, were always unique occasions and experiences!
What a joy it was to hear Henry’s deep voice say ‘Re-Joyce’ when we phoned him.
Liisa and I miss our dear friend. RIP Henry.
Tom and Liisa McGah
G. Andrew Maness
I just received the sad news…
I have lost the best friend among my non-guitar dept. colleagues that I have ever had.
I hope that there is lots of Jameson’s where you are, dear friend…
Save me some, and say hello to Blossom Dearie when you see her.
So sad to hear his passing. I was in his History of Art classes in the early 90’s.
I haven’t seen Henry Tate since I graduated 14 years ago. Yet I remember him like it was yesterday and feel like a part of me just died as well. It’s that part of you that can be forged only by a man like Henry. It’s a gift you feel lucky enough to have received once, because it seems impossible to ever come across it again. Thank you, Henry.
Warren A. Weberg
We have lost a truly beautiful and gentle soul. My time at Berklee and since has been so enriched by the perspectives Henry helped me discover for myself. Peace.
I am heartbroken to hear of the passing one of the most amazing, down-to-earth teachers and human being I have ever had the pleasure of learning and being inspired from. RIP to one the most influential teachers I have ever encountered in my life, the great Mr. Henry Tate. Henry was the old assistant curator at the MFA, and is the reason why Berklee Students get free admission to the museum. He was so passionate and got me excited to learn about the History or Art, from Picasso to American Visual Art. Your passion for life and peace will live on and has touched many students that had the privilege to cross your path.
I learned of Henry’s death only today. I met him as a freshman in high school in 1956. He was then and as I gather from the comments above, remained until his death a kind, gentle caring man. He once told me that he believed the only real sin was meanness. If that is true, Henry was without sin. The world is a lonelier place without him.
Henry Augustine Tate is my cousin. As a student studying at Trinity College in Dublin he made frequent visits to his Donegal family. He was inspirIng, as a child he was my hero for many years we lost contact. Then via the Internet we were connected and corresponded frequently via email. My family and I are saddened by this news. We were hoping to meet up soon.
May he Rest in Peace.
Condolences to his brothers And sisters.
From Catherine and Storey fiamily
I remember Dr. Tate for multiple positive reasons.
The overarching memory is that he had the quality of a living saint – you were a better person for simply having known him.
As someone else said above, he one of Berklee’s best-kept-[but not so-]secrets. His warmth, exuberance, honesty, and genuine attitude was one of my best inspirations from Berklee.
Follow the red, Henry.
Renoir’s Dance at Bougival hangs in my daughter’s room today because of Henry Tate. I cannot think of anything better to say.
He was a remarkable and memorable educator! He started teaching at Berklee the same year I entered as a freshman. I still remember much of what he taught (especially the Byzentine art and Renior). I was so saddened to hear of his passing. I’ll never forget him.
Henry. I never had the opportunity to say thank you for disillusioning me from oraganized religion, and opening my soul to true spirituality. You were a huge influence awakening my passion for the visual arts, especially the classics. I will never forget you.
Just learned of his passing. I am watching the documentary on Netflix of the Gardener theft and it brought me to think of Mr Tate. His passion for art was infectious. I treasure my time at the Gardener and MFA just absorbing the art. Rest easy.