By CAYLEE HANNA
Amarillo College faculty and staff are remembering a man who devoted his life to the college, to education and to the arts.
On Aug. 24, 2020, Dr. Dale Roller, former AC music department chair and member of the board of regents, died due to declining health at the age of 90, but his legacy at Amarillo College will continue to live on in the creative arts community.
“Dr. Roller helped establish many new fine arts initiatives such as the Civic Chorus and the Amarillo Master Chorale, the Art Force support organization for AC Fine Arts, the Amarillo Boys Choir, Amarillo Opera along with Mila Gibson which has always been a part of AC and the development of a robust humanities program,” said Paul Matney, a former AC president who worked closely with Roller.
“Dr. Roller also led a strong choir program as vocal director. He supported the Amarillo Symphony along with his dear wife and musician, Betty. Dale and Betty were a delightful and energetic force in supporting fine arts in Amarillo,” Matney said.
Jim Laughlin, a music professor and director of jazz bands, said that Roller always put the needs of the music and fine arts departments as one of his top priorities and that he continued to support the creative arts at AC and in the community even after he retired.
“Dale was the arts division chair when I began at AC in 1989,” Laughlin said. “He was a fierce supporter of the arts. He never accepted what he was told by administration, but imminently pushed for the needs of not only the music department but all creative arts. After his retirement he continued to be the thorn on the board by becoming an AC regent and imposing the importance of the arts in Amarillo and at its community college.”
After Roller retired, he was elected to become a member of the AC board of regents.
“Dale had extensive knowledge of AC due to his 35 years of service to the college. He was an active and committed regent, which helped him make AC all it could be for students. Dr. Roller used his knowledge and experience as a regent. He continued to attend and support the fine arts programs with his personal attendance at concerts, plays, exhibitions, etc.,” Matney said.
Laughlin said that Roller’s involvement in Amarillo will be remembered for a long period of time. Roller inspired the way that Laughlin teaches his students and how he values the creative arts.
“Dale knew that the power of arts education goes far beyond the classroom, it heals our culture. Dale’s influence in the Texas Panhandle will be felt for many more decades. I am a better teacher because of Dale’s influence and plan to continue his fierce call for the value of creative arts in our schools,” Laughlin said.
Dr. Nathaniel Fryml, director of choral arts and artistic director of Amarillo Master Chorale, said that Roller encouraged faculty and students to share their musical abilities outside of the AC community to build connections and showcase their hard work.
“Anyone who’s been connected to the AC music department over the last several decades will attest to the huge and enduring impact Dr. Roller had on the arts at this institution,” Fryml said. “He served as a faculty member starting in the late 50s and eventually transitioned to become department chair and then later serving on the board of regents. During all that time, he was encouraging the community within and outside AC to recognize and support the important work being done here. Likewise, he was always encouraging the music faculty and students to share their gifts outside of Washington Street Campus and build connections wherever possible. He and his wife Betty were big proponents of the benefits of collaboration, and much of the ability of arts organizations here in town to ‘play nice’ together and support each other’s endeavors today can be traced back to that original vision of the Rollers.”
Beverly de la Bretonne, AC Professor Emeritus and part-time violin player, said that Roller was always there to support her and that he never missed any of her concerts.
“Dale’s support of the AC Chamber Orchestra meant a lot to me in my 25 years as conductor. I could always count on him to be in attendance at all my concerts. I felt his support in all my areas of teaching and performing. Dale was a wonderful administrator, mentor and friend,” de la Bretonne said.
Fryml said that Roller was knowledgeable and that he used to see the bigger picture in every situation he would come across.
“I enjoyed every minute of the various interactions I had with Dr. Roller over my first four years here at Amarillo College,” Fryml said. “He possessed a wealth of information but always encouraged me to think for myself, to think outside the box and to look for the potential in every situation and for strengths in myself and those around me, rather than focusing on weaknesses. But I think what had the biggest impact on me as I watched him and got to know him was his humility, and the gratitude he so frequently expressed to others and to God.”
Matney said that Roller will be truly missed.
“Dr. Dale Roller was a dear friend and colleague at Amarillo College for many years. We both served as division chairs. Dale was fiercely dedicated to the arts, his faculty, his students and to Amarillo College,” Matney said. “I loved and admired him. We had so many happy times together. He will be missed by so many.”