Suzanne Forsberg, Ph.D.: Music to our Ears
Dr. Forsberg leaves a musical legacy to St. Francis College, retiring this year following 30 years as a full-time faculty member and another 15 as an adjunct faculty member.
During her SFC career, Dr. Forsberg served nine years as chair of the Department of Foreign Languages, Fine Arts, and International Culture Studies. She was the founder and artistic director of the musical series Concerts at Half-Past Twelve, which featured lunchtime concerts from renowned musicians across the United States. It celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2020. Dr. Forsberg also helped develop the curriculum for the minor in music the College now offers. In 2017, Dr. Forsberg co-curated an art exhibition in Founders Hall, entitled “Churches of Venice,” based upon on-site Venetian photographs.
A true music aficionado, Dr. Forsberg’s academic interests focused on eighteenth-century symphonies and concertos. In addition, she worked on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and sons, the music of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the piano works of Frédéric Chopin. She serves on the Board of the Haydn Society of North America.
How has St. Francis College changed during your years with the institution?
SF: Every president has brought about changes and perhaps the most significant occurred with President Macchiarola. The older library building was replaced with the new academic center, which was dedicated to Frank and Mary Macchiarola. He was also responsible for the Genovesi Center.
The student body changed as well. There are fewer Italian and Irish students coming from parochial schools. There are more students from public schools. There have been changes in the curriculum. The core was replaced with general educationn.
Over the course of your career, what events at SFC stand out as most memorable to you?
SF: The changing of the guard. I was there under several presidents. The first one was Brother Donald [Sullivan O.S.F.], then Frank Macchiarola, Brendan Dugan, and Miguel Martinez-Saenz.
For me personally, what was significant was the retirement of Frank Greene. He was chairman of our department for 31 years. And he served for 46 years as a faculty member. He has been my close [colleague]. We are still in contact.
Why did Professor Greene make such an impact on you?
SF: He was responsible for many things at the College. He [started] the International Cultural Studies major. He founded the honors program. I learned about art history from him because I sat in all his lectures. Everyone loved the way he lectured. He’s just a kind, wonderful and accomplished person who did so much for our department and the College.
Which of your contributions to St. Francis College makes you most proud?
SF: I would say Concerts at Half-Past Twelve and the music minor. When I came to the College…there was only one [music] course in the curriculum, Music of the Western World. Over the years, with the help of colleagues, we developed a very strong music minor. And the concerts serve the students in those courses.
Concerts at Half-Past Twelve, which you founded and directed, is now a signature lunchtime musical series for the College. How did it start and how has it evolved?
SF: The first concert occurred the year after the fine arts classroom, 7213, was dedicated. The College purchased a new Steinway upright piano, and the Hungarian pianist Gabor Fuchs gave the first concert on May 10th, 2000.
And then, President Dugan made it possible for us to get a new Steinway grand [piano]. We moved the concerts to Founders Hall. And along with the students, faculty, and staff, the audience grew with the many senior citizens and community members attending [the concerts].
The series evolved as I found more contacts [among musicians].…I tried to vary [the series] from early music to classical to contemporary. In addition, we featured Spanish, jazz and world music.
How has the College’s Franciscan tradition factored into your career here?
SF: On October 8th, 1999, I was chosen to travel to Assisi, based on an essay I wrote. I was the first faculty member selected. My article on the pilgrimage was subsequently featured in The Terrier.
Our leaders instructed us that “a pilgrimage is moving out of one’s own environment to another, for the purpose of increased spiritual growth.” And I was so inspired by it that since that time I’ve tried to serve this St. Francis community with Franciscan values of peace and justice. It was really a significant event in my life.
What’s your relationship with SFC alumni community?
SF: Quite a number of my former students hold important positions at the College: Robert Oliva, Director of Recruitment; Erez Shochat, Chair of the Math Department; David Loutfi, Head of Special Events; Monica Michalski, Associate Dean of Student Success; Antonevia Ocho-Coultes, Director of Academic and Community Partnerships. I’m really proud that they were in my classes.
What will you miss about St. Francis College?
SF: I’ll miss the students and the teaching…What I’d like to do is teach a couple of my honors classes…I don’t want to leave without ever coming back.
Do you have any message you want to share regarding the ongoing challenges due to COVID-19?
SF: We should follow the advice of the administration because they set up the Terrier Safety Pledge. As I read through it…I think it really is a model.