Robert Lee McManaman

1926 - 2017 

Robert McManaman, a conductor and baritone soloist, taught in two colleges and three academies in the Seventh-day Adventist educational system. He also served as a church musician in community churches whenever possible during his career.

He was born on July 20, 1926 in Kansas, the son of Charles Levi and Maude Inez Otis McManaman. Although his parents were not musicians, they bought a piano and started Robert on piano lessons when he was five. He continued music study at Enterprise Academy under Norman and Eleanor Krogstad.

Following graduation from EA in 1944, McManaman attended Union College in Nebraska, where he majored in religion and pursued a minor in music. He had the good fortune to be at the school when the music program was flourishing. He studied voice with Evelyn Lauritzen, June Herr, and Harlyn Abel and sang in groups conducted by Abel and Wayne Hooper. He also enjoyed the friendship of several others that, like himself, would enjoy significant music careers, including Harold Lickey, Lyle Jewell, and Merritt Schumann.

While attending UC, he met June Johnstone, a pianist and music major from North Dakota. June had studied music at Maplewood Academy in Minnesota and at McPhail School of Music in nearby Minneapolis. Following their marriage in 1947 and completion of his degree in 1948, they began teaching music at Sunnydale Academy in Missouri.

In 1953 they were invited to join the faculty at Southwestern Junior College, now Southwestern University, in Keene, Texas, where they would become known affectionately as "the Macs." After three years at SJA, they accepted an invitation to teach music at Helderberg College in Somerset West, South Africa, where Robert would chair the program and direct the choir and she would teach piano.

For the next nine years, McManaman led the college's nationally known choir, touring extensively with them throughout that country, performing in important venues in major cities. They also sang on the South African Broadcasting Company radio network and received many compliments on their high-quality performances, being compared favorably with nationally known choirs by many reviewers.

Robert started an instrumental program that enabled the school to host quality groups such as the Salvation Army brass bands and similar groups from nearby Stollenbosch University. These contacts led to opportunities for witnessing about the church.

In December at the end of the 1965 school year, the McManamans left Africa so that he could attend Andrews University. Following completion of an M.A. in music in the summer of 1966, the McManamans started teaching that autumn at Rio Lindo Academy in California.

After teaching at RLA for fifteen years, they accepted positions at San Pasqual Academy in Escondido, California, where they taught until 1988, when they retired and moved to San Marcos, California. They were living there when June died in 1994 at age 66.

After her death, Robert met Mardelle Burgeson-Dufort, an acquaintance from college days, at an alumni reunion weekend at Maplewood Academy in Minnesota. They married in 1996 and then lived in San Marcos and Forest Hills, California. In 2004, they moved to Monmouth, Oregon.

Whenever possible during his career, he held music positions in various Protestant churches and also frequently sang in choirs and as a soloist for presentations of major choral works. He was a member of the Oregon Adventist Men's Chorus, a group that toured and sang frequently in the Northwest. The McManamans were members of the Dalles, Oregon, church, where Mardelle was one of the church's pianists and Robert organized a men's chorus which sang monthly for church services.

Robert was living in Monmouth, Oregon, when he died on February 22, 2017, at age 90.


Source: Interviews with Robert and Mardelle McManaman 21 February 2011and letter from Robert, 28 February 2011; 1930 U.S. Federal Census; Pacific Union Recorder, 12 December 1966, 2; Southern African Division Outlook, 15 December 1956, 12; 15 November 1965, 8; 15 January 1966, 11; Southwestern Union The Record, 22 July 1953; 10 March 1954; The Chronicle of Southwestern Adventist College, 1994, 136; Review and Herald, 2 November 1961, 44; 3 August 1967, 29; CD liner, Helderberg College Choir, A Millennium Celebration, 1948-2000.