Wylie Savanas “Van” Quinn III ’65

Dr. Wylie Savanas “Van” Quinn III, was born September 13, 1943 in Gastonia, NC to Wylie S. Quinn Jr. and Evelyn Powell Quinn. He died peacefully on October 25, 2019, surrounded by loved ones at UNC Hospital.

Van received his B.A. from Davidson College and proceeded to receive graduate degrees in Divinity from Yale University, during which time he held the post of organist at the Yale Divinity School Marquand Chapel. While at Yale, Van met his wife, Peggy, and they were married September 9, 1967.

They moved to Chapel Hill, NC in 1970 and Van was awarded a Ph.D. in philosophical theology from Duke University. He held teaching positions at The Hale School and Saint Mary’s College where he taught courses on religion and faith.

He began working at The Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill in 1970 where he remained until 2017, and on retirement held the distinction of being the longest tenured church organist and choirmaster in the United States. Van was a vital member of his church community, where the musical splendor was a culmination of his unflinching energy, consummate taste and musicianship.

A lover of knowledge, he was a voracious reader and learner. He had an encyclopedic understanding of all things theological, musical, and beyond, and delighted in pontificating on various subjects ranging from Harry Potter to the French organ composer Messaien.

As are many such men, Van was highly opinionated, sharp in his critique, and acute in his conclusions. But at the same time he had a warm heart and a generous spirit, accented by a jovial wit, and a cutting sense of humor which brought endless joy to those closest to him.

These combined traits made him a cherished friend and mentor, and allowed him to bring out the best in those around him, and inspire greatness.

Be it for his youth or adult choirs, his mentees or students, his colleagues, family or friends, Van was devoted, passionate, selfless, and essential.

In all his wisdom and brilliance, Van served as a North Star to his community. He pierced to the heart of the matter and spoke truth. He was a unique mind and spirit, and those who had the privilege to know him will rare meet another like him.

A great light has gone out, but the world remains bright for those he leaves behind; his loving wife of 52 years, Peggy, his daughter, Molly, whose voice will continue to fill the world with song now his is silent, his son, Nathaniel, whose brush strokes will inspire where he can no longer, his daughter-in-law Megan, whose unbounded compassion saves lives every day at UNC Hospital, and his beautiful grandchildren, Molly and Ozzy, who remain an endless source of joy. All who ever were blessed with his wisdom, kindness and wit, will forever bask in the memory of him.

A memorial service will be held at Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, NC on Saturday, November 2nd with musical prelude at 10:30 AM and service to follow at 11 AM.

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