When James Pruett applied to UNC as a prospective undergraduate in 1951, he halfheartedly wrote in his application that he aspired to be a college professor — he hoped the profession would give him an unusual freedom to be with books and with music.
But Pruett, a retired UNC music professor and alumnus, never expected to spend 25 years at the University teaching music, including 10 years as the department chairman.
Pruett, 81, died on Feb. 26 after a battle with cancer.
“It’s almost a cliche to say that he was a scholar and a gentlemen, but he was both,” said Mark Katz, the current music department chairman. “He exemplified the best qualities of both — he was friendly, he was refined, he was well-spoken.”
The Mt. Airy, N.C. native was heavily influenced by his hometown’s lively music and theater scene. He was childhood best friends with actor Andy Griffith, and his mother loved both music and reading — these influences are what propelled Pruett’s lifelong interests in books, music and teaching.