For a warrior, to be harmonious is to flow, not to stop in the middle of the current and try to make a space of artificial and impossible peace. He knows that he can only give the very best of himself under conditions of maximum tension . . . Ask yourselves these questions: What am I doing with my life? Does it have a purpose? Is it tight enough? A warrior accepts his destiny, whatever it may be. However, he fights to change things, and he makes something exquisite of his passage on Earth.

—Carlos Castañeda

This quote by Carlos Castañeda, a 1960s shaman and spiritual writer, was included in the program of Erich Joseph Lear’s memorial service, held on March 29, 2015, in Bryan Hall Theatre. Castañeda’s books had a profound effect on how Lear approached both life and death. Erich stated his career approach was “to help people reach their goals.” This was evident in his work as an administrator, educator, mentor, and friend.

Erich Joseph Lear. Photo Shelly Hanks
Erich Joseph Lear (Photo Shelly Hanks)

Erich earned his college degrees in violin performance and was an accomplished musician, playing in a variety of orchestras and chamber ensembles. He began his academic career as a teacher but soon realized that his true calling was as an administrator. While he was a philosophical thinker, Erich was also pragmatic and the combination made for a strong leader. First as the director of the School of Music at WSU and later as the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, he impressed people with his brilliant mind and ability to see both the big picture and the details within. Colleagues were often amazed at how his mind worked, similar to a giant spreadsheet, whether discussing budgets, architectural drafts, or long-range planning for a program. And yet through it all he was humble and respectful of other ideas and viewpoints.

For me, Erich was my mentor, colleague, and dear friend. In honor of his retirement in 2011, I performed a voice recital entitled “Words of Wisdom” with pianist and WSU professor Gerald Berthiaume. Lear loved Mahler’s music, and the songs included this lyric:

I have died to the world’s turmoil and rest in a silent domain.

Surrounded by those he dearly loved—his wife, Jane, and his daughters, Sarah and Rachel—Erich lost his battle with cancer on February 18, 2015, leaving this world much too soon. What he left behind was a wonderful legacy of dedication to his profession, students, family, and friends.

Julie Anne Wieck is an associate professor of music at WSU.