Notes on a Beautiful Life

Notes on a Beautiful Life


In 40 years of teaching at the College, Douglas ashley left a legacy impossible to forget. The much-loved music professor retired this past spring after offering tutelage and friendship to scores of students, including many who never touched an instrument. As one of the School of the Arts’ most popular teachers and a longtime faculty adviser to the Kappa Alpha fraternity, Ashley forged close relationships with students since his arrival on campus in 1972.

In honor of his retirement, former Kappa Alpha fraternity president Ellis Roberts ’01 spearheaded the establishment of the Douglas Ashley Scholarship. Once the scholarship is fully funded, annual awards will be given to School of the Arts students, with a preference for those in the Greek community.

In June, less than a month into his retirement, Ashley passed away in St. Louis. His death capped a remarkable life  and career, during which the musician performed at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York, Wigmore Hall in London, the Chopin Academy in Warsaw and at concert halls in Berlin and Prague, among other cities. Ashley also performed at Charleston’s Spoleto Festival USA and had been a juror for piano and chamber music at the international Johannes Brahms Competition in Poertschach, Austria.

Ashley was born in Kansas City in 1937 and graduated from Northwestern University, where he also earned graduate and doctorate degrees. He earned a piano diploma from the Conservatory of Vienna, where Italian classical pianist Maria Curcio served as inspiration for one of Ashley’s six books on 20th-century piano, Music Beyond Sound: Maria Curcio, a Teacher of Great Pianists.

These accomplishments, however, were no more important to the teacher than the success he enabled in his students. Many remember Ashley fondly as both a great professor and a great friend.

“There was never an issue that was too petty. He would always be there for you,” says Roberts, who now works as a civil litigator in Charleston. “I leaned on him during my college career and every year after.”

And, as junior Corey Campbell wrote in a tribute to the late professor:

He surpassed any expectation placed upon him as an educator. And in the same breath that improved my Mozart, he also managed to comfort, guide and push me forward into a better life. This man sacrificed, worked and toiled for the students of this school. For 40 years, this man has given his life to others, and the lives that were touched by him surely won’t be forgetting him any time soon. To forget him would be to forget a part of ourselves. I won’t be forgetting you. A thousand “thank yous” would never be enough. But here’s my one. Thank you, Douglas Ashley. You will be missed.

For more information on the Douglas Ashley Scholarship,
contact David Masich, director of gift planning at the College, at 843.953.1835 or