College saddened by death of Music Department’s Mary Blinn



Mary Blinn, former assistant to the chair of the Music Department, was known for her work as a poet, songwriter, singer and visual artist. 

By Editor-in-Chief

The college has announced the death of Mary Blinn, former assistant to the chair of the Music Department.

Blinn died suddenly on June 25 after having taken a medical leave at the end of October 2014, which lasted the remainder of the academic year due to various ailments, her husband Bob Blinn said.

After being diagnosed with endocarditis, Blinn became one of just four people to undergo an advanced 10-hour operation in January 2015, which successfully utilized new procedures that allowed her to live an additional five months, her husband said.

He added that despite undergoing surgery, taking medication and participating in physical therapy, she never complained and instead chose to cheer on her fellow patients.

During her time at Columbia, Blinn served for 11 years as the assistant to Richard Dunscomb, former chair of the department, before his sabbatical during the 2014–2015 academic year.

She was employed within the Music Department from 2001–2014, but worked at Columbia for many years prior.

Before she became employed at Columbia, Blinn was a student at the college. She received a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and a master’s degree in interdisciplinary arts.

She is survived by her husband, who also worked at Columbia for more than 20 years counseling students in the Dance, Music, Theatre and Cinema Art + Science departments in the College Advising Center, located at 623 S. Wabash Ave.

According to Bob Blinn, the two met in elementary school and were together ever since.

“We were married for 42 years and each day was a joy,” he said. “She was smart, funny talented, inspiring, humble and my very best friend. She was a published poet, filmmaker and musician. She was by far the finest person I have ever met and I will love her forever.”

Together, the Blinns also published a book titled “Putting Creativity to Work: The Art of Working in the Arts,” which was released in July of 2011, and is available at ShopColumbia, located in the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave.

As reported by The Chronicle on April 30, 2012, Mary Blinn said Bob wrote the book based on the couple’s 40 years of experience as Chicago artists, and she edited his drafts.

They published the book in an effort to help high school and college students find opportunities to further their creative careers, the couple told The Chronicle in 2012.

Dunscomb said he remembers Mary for her pleasant personality as one of the key players in the Music Department.

She personally designed the advertisements for the department, he said, adding that she came up with the original designs by using photos of students in all of the advertisements. The school has since incorporated her designs into much of Columbia’s collegewide advertisements, according to Dunscomb. 

Blinn loved recruiting and would make daily appointments with potential students and their parents for them to visit Columbia, Dunscomb said.

He added that she was always the first person those students would ask for when they arrived on campus for their first day of school.

“They were so thankful of her help and often said it was she that helped them decide to attend Columbia,” Dunscomb said.

Aside from her helpfulness to students, Dunscomb also noted Blinn’s creative talents.

“Mary was a creative genius in her own right,” Dunscomb said. “She was an artist and leaves behind many pieces of work that are wonderful. I am proud to have one of her pieces in my home. She will be missed by all in the Music Department and those who knew her throughout the college. I miss her every day.”

Victoria Shannon, an adjunct professor in the Humanities, History and Social Sciences Department, said she considers Mary and Bob two of her closest friends.

Shannon noted special Christmas celebrations with the Blinns and her wife—also named Mary—and how she and Bob would laugh because they had to use their wives’ middle names to distinguish between the two.

Similarly to Dunscomb, Shannon said she is also proud to have several of Mary’s works on display in her home.

Shannon added that she has been listening to Bob and Mary’s  CD, A Handful of Sunshine, a collection of songs for children, since she heard the news of Mary’s death. 

The CD, released on Aug. 12, 2004, is available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon.

Rosita Sands, who served as acting chair of the Music Department during Dunscomb’s year-long sabbatical and worked with Mary prior to her medical leave, said anyone who views the large photos of music majors used in the department’s advertising will be seeing just one example of Mary’s creativity.

“[The advertisements are] products of her work that I hope will remain with us as a testament of her vision for many years to come,” Sands said.