Mary Hester-Clifton | UAPB Communications
Pine Bluff, AR — The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) mourns the loss of a valued and talented member of the Pride. On Friday, July 8, 2022, we learned of the passing of Dr. Michael J Bates. Our beloved Dr. Bates, UAPB Professor, and Vesper Choir Director Emeritus, began working at UAPB on August 15, 1977, as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Music. Dr. Bates would spend the next forty-one years deeply entrenched in the music and choral activities of UAPB and the state of Arkansas. While he began as an Assistant Professor of Music, he would eventually teach multiple courses, including Music History, Music Theory, and Music Appreciation.
In 1999, he was appointed as Director of the UAPB Vesper Choir and served in that capacity until his retirement in 2018. According to UAPB Chancellor Dr. Laurence B. Alexander, “Dr. Bates was a musician and choir director extraordinaire. For decades, he devoted himself to preparing students for the highest level of achievement in performances by the Vesper Choir. Dr. Bates seriously wanted his students in the choir to have an international experience as well. So, he assumed 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 and caring style as a professor, music department chair, and president of the Faculty and Staff Senate. He had a tremendous influence on the entire UAPB community, the local community, the state, and beyond.” The University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees conferred upon him the title of Professor and Vesper Choir Director Emeritus when he retired on June 30, 2018.
During his tenure at UAPB, the choir raised over a million dollars in funds and performed in 23 states and overseas in Spain and Italy. While employed by UAPB, Dr. Bates continued to enjoy success as a solo performer and figure within the music community of Arkansas.
We echo the sentiments of Mr. Jerron Liddell, current UAPB Vesper Choir Director, regarding Dr. Bates. “We will never forget Dr. Bates’ tremendous impact on the Vesper Choir, the University, and the Pine Bluff community. Doc was an amazing musician, director, and overall person. I am grateful to have called him my mentor and friend. I don’t believe that most people truly understand how much of a family the Vesper Choir is and continues to be, even across four generations of leadership. As families do, we will pull together, support each other, and remember and celebrate a man who has given so much of himself to so many. Doc’s legacy will continue to live through each of us.”
We extend our prayers and thoughts to his family, friends, colleagues, students, organizations, and communities inspired by his abilities and contributions. We will share information on services and arrangements as it becomes available.