Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rest in Peace, Robert Orlando Briggs

Bob and me at the Cal Band Alumni reunion in 2006

Robert Orlando Briggs passed away this morning at UCSF Hospital after battling an infection for 2 months from gall bladder surgery. Bob was mentally sharp and focused throughout, and spent most of his days resting or visiting with friends. I know that Bob greatly appreciated everyone who came, sang, and sent pictures & well wishes - and the staff of UCSF said they had never before seen so many visitors express their love for a patient of theirs!

There is no need for flowers, and donation instructions will be handled with the memorials. If you would like to hear more information about the memorial being planned, or would like to read or tell your story about Bob, we have an email list set up. Please send an email to:

(Nothing specific needs to be in the subject line or body of the message. The important part is that you send your email FROM the email address you want subscribed, which should be the same email you want to use to SEND email to the list. For this list, I would not use any "forwarding" email address you might have.)

My husband wrote:
Bob was a fixture of University of California spirit for decades.

Erin & I were in the Cal Band together when Bob retired and had maintained a close friendship since then by performing in his community band, serving in the alumni band association together, and (of course) attending many, many events together. He was also a regular guest at our own parties (guaranteed to arrive exactly on time) as he loved being around young people and talking about campus activities, college athletics, music, and his wonderful collection of vintage cars in his retirement just as he had done for so many years in his career. At our wedding, Bob drove us from Alumni House to our reception in one of those vintage cars.

His passing was sudden and unexpected but his life seemed to be everything that he wanted it to be at all times and he was healthy and active up until his final days. Please remember him with us, raise a glass, and sing a "Toast" as he had done himself so many times for so many others.

* * *

Every time I sit down to write something about Bob, I don't know where to start. He was such an instrumental part of the Cal Band, which is such an instrumental part of my life, that Bob's passing leaves a big hole in my life, as well as the lives of many others.

As I work on campus, Bob would always come by and see me and enjoyed taking me out to lunch at the Faculty Club. I think I was his "inside source" for Cal and Cal Band information, and there were neverending Cal things to talk about. Before I started to work at CAA, he knew how important it was that Mark and I attend Charter Gala, so he paid for us to attend. Many a time Bob would have extra tickets or special passes for a Cal game and he would think of me.

I am eternally thankful that I got to spend my first 3 fall seasons under the direction of Robert O. Briggs. I was the Drum Major of his last Spring Show and got to play in full uniform for his retirement party. All of these things are so incredibly special and memorable to me, but nothing can really say what a wonderfully sweet and giving person he was to everyone he met. He was truly one of a kind and will be sorely missed.

Our Sturdy Golden Bear, is watching from the sky - Rest in Peace, Bob. I miss you with all of my heart.

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20 August 1927 - 17 September 2008

Robert O. Briggs, Director Emeritus of the University Of California Band, has passed away at the age of 81 after complications developed following routine surgery.

Bob Briggs was director of the Cal Band from 1971 until his retirement in 1995. Bob's association with the Cal Band extend much further than his time as director, however. Bob joined the Cal Band as an entering freshman in the Fall of 1947, and continued his association for the next 61 years. Even in retirement, Bob served as a resource for the current Cal Band, sharing his expertise and experience with successive generations of Cal Band members.

Because Bob's years as an undergraduate coincided with the "Glory Years" of Cal Football under Pappy Waldorf, Bob was fortunate enough to march in three successive Rose Bowls. In late 1958, as Cal was preparing for yet another (and to date its last) Rose Bowl, Bob Briggs was invited to march with the Band in order to help fill out its ranks. He thus gained the unique distinction of being the only member of the Cal Band in its 117 year history to have marched in four Rose Bowls.

In 2004, Bob recalled, "I marched in some Rose Bowls -- in fact 4 of them -- '49,'50,'51 as a student member and '59 as an invited alum. I am the only Cal Bandsman to have done that many. It was always my goal to conduct at one of them, and we almost did after the '75 season. But UCLA went!!!"

Bob Briggs was born in Modesto, California, on 20 August 1927. He attended public schools in Modesto, graduated from Modesto High School, and briefly attended Modesto Junior College.

At Cal, Bob played cornet in the Band, and took up the study of the French horn. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music in 1951. Bob served in the U.S. Army for two years after his time at U.C. Berkeley. During his service in the Army, Bob played in the Army Band at Fort Ord in Monterey, California, and at other postings. Bob graduated from the U.S. Army Music School. He continued his musical studies, receiving a Master of Arts in Music at San Francisco State University.

Bob became band director at Armijo High School in Fairfield, California in 1955, and continued in that position until 1967 when he returned to the University of California in the capacity as assistant Band Director as he pursued doctoral studies. He served under James Berdahl until 1971 when Berdahl took an extended leave of absence to work in Japan. Bob served as acting director for two years until he was formally appointed director of the Cal Band in 1973.

During Bob's time as director of the Cal Band, the Band made an extensive national tour in honor of the Bicentennial of the United States in the Summer of 1976. The Cal Bands opportunities to perform at bowl games improved during his tenure as well, as the fortunes of Cal Football improved; in 1979 the Cal Band performed at its first bowl game since the 1959 Rose Bowl, the Garden State Bowl in New Jersey. During Bob's time, the Cal Band would march in three more bowl games and make an appearance at a conference game in Tokyo.

Because of the unique organization of the Cal Band as a student-run University activity, Bob Briggs had to balance the dynamics of a vigorous and youthfully demanding student government with the requirements and politics of the larger university administration. In a position fraught with potential conflicts and burdened with competing and often contradictory demands, Bob's non-confrontational style served the Cal Band and the University well.

In his earlier days as director, Bob was more formal and reserved in his relationship with band members. He was most often addressed as "Mr. Briggs." In later years, Bob developed a more casual style and later generations of Cal Band members know him best as simply, "Bob."

Upon his retirement in 1995, at the recommendation of Chancellor Tien, President of the University Peltason appointed Bob Director Emeritus of the University Of California Band. In retirement, Bob remained active in music, helping to organize the Solano Winds, a community musical ensemble, and serving as its conductor for the past 13 years. In 2005, Bob celebrated his fiftieth year as a director with a special Solano Winds concert.

On December 1, 2006, the Cal Band Alumni Association presented Bob with its Tony Martinez award in recognition of his many contributions to and accomplishments with the Cal Band during his long association.
Bob was an avid enthusiast of automobiles, both the classics and more modern creations. He often used one or another of his antique sedans to transport Cal Band brides and grooms to their wedding ceremonies, acting as chauffeur, a role he relished.

In his six decades of association with the Cal Band, Bob touched thousands of lives. He will be long remembered by generations of Cal Band members and Cal Band fans.

-Jamie Rawson, Bass '77