Former dean emeritus Dr. Johnson “Gene” Duncan dies at 98

Dr. Gene Duncan

Dr. Johnson Eugene “Gene” Duncan, 98, retired dean emeritus of Morehead, passed away on Feb. 2, 2018.

Duncan attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 1941 and a master’s degree in music in 1947. A World War II veteran serving in the Army Air Corps, he served as a high school and college band director in Alabama before accepting a fellowship at the Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he earned a Ph.D. in music in 1955. 

Duncan and his late wife, Jane (69), had returned to Jacksonville, Alabama, when Dr. Adron Doran, president of Morehead State College, called him and convinced him to come to Morehead to build a strong music department. The Duncans arrived in 1956 and, for the next 28 years, Duncan excelled in building a renowned music program, serving as head of the MSU Department of Music, chairman of fine arts and dean of the College of Humanities before he retired from the University in 1982. He also served as the national president of Phi Mu Alpha Music Fraternity and national president of the Sinfonia Foundation. 

He was the recipient of the Founders Award for University Service in 1994, and the J. E. Duncan Recital Hall in the Baird Music Building is named in his honor. 

To make a gift in memory of one or more of these individuals, call the Office of Alumni Relations & Development at 800-783-ALUM or visit