Boston Conservatory Remembers the Late Richard Ortner

Ortner served as president from 1998 to 2017 and led the institution through impressive capital campaigns, campus expansions, and a historic merger into Berklee.

October 21, 2019

“As artists, we work constantly to find true empathy—to understand others, to feel with them, to translate and filter their experience through our own, and in the end to share that experience, transformed, as a way of enlarging the human journey."—Richard Ortner

Richard Ortner, who served as Boston Conservatory’s final president, passed away on October 10, 2019 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. The Boston Conservatory community mourned the loss and celebrated Ortner’s life with a remembrance on Wednesday, October 16, in which community members and friends gathered to share memories and stories of his far-reaching impact.

During his tenure as president from 1998 to 2017, Ortner devoted his life to Boston Conservatory, and transformed it into the world-renowned institution for which it is now recognized. The energy and vision he brought to the school attracted talented faculty, introduced groundbreaking student resources and programs, and led the Conservatory through two historic facility expansions to provide students with state-of-the-art learning spaces—the renovation of 31 Hemenway and the construction of 132 Ipswich Street (recently named the Richard Ortner Studio Building) just a few years later. Indefatigable and always forward-thinking, Ortner’s bold vision for the Conservatory did not stop there. Imagining a world of endless potential and possibility, he led the Conservatory through a historic merger with Berklee—the first in the world between two performing arts colleges.

But perhaps his greatest legacy is the close-knit, supportive, and socially engaged community he fostered. Deeply passionate about the role of performers as artist-citizens, Ortner believed that artists bear a responsibility to use their talent to enrich both their local community and the world at large. These ideals are ingrained in the Conservatory’s culture and identity, and drive the school’s mission to educate artists who will impact the world for the better.

Ortner was tirelessly devoted to  supporting students and helping them reach their highest potential. To honor his work and continue this legacy, a fund has been established in his name, the Richard Ortner Fund for Excellence. The fund is now accepting contributions, which will support what Ortner loved most and devoted his life to: the Conservatory and its students. Gifts to the Richard Ortner Fund for Excellence can be made online, or mailed to:

Office of Institutional Advancement
ATTN: Gifts Processor
Boston Conservatory at Berklee
1140 Boylston Street, MS 161-IA
Boston, MA 02215

For questions on how to contribute to the Richard Ortner Fund for Excellence, contact the Boston Conservatory at Berklee Office of Institutional Advancement at or by phone at 617-747-8385.