April 19, 1936 - July 4, 2019 John Sneden Jr., husband of the late Julia Carolyn Brown Sneden, passed away in his home on July 4 at the age of 83. He is survived by his three sons: John Sneden III and his wife Kelly Fetty, of Winston-Salem; Will Sneden and his wife Sandra, of Charlotte; and Rob Sneden of Winston-Salem. He is also survived by three grandchildren, Gina, Julia, and Adam; nieces and nephews; innumerable cousins (as proven though his extensive genealogy research!); and dear friends, beloved coworkers, and grateful graduates connected to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts over the years. A longtime resident of Winston-Salem, John was born and raised in Tenafly, New Jersey, where his parents John A. Sneden, Sr. and Jean Mackey Sneden were part of a long lineage in the area dating back to well before the revolutionary war, when the primary passage across the Hudson River was between Sneden's Landing and Dobb's Ferry. John took great pride in his heritage; his exploits as an amateur genealogist are legendary in the family inner circles. After graduating from Tenafly High School (class of '54), John moved south to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received both a B.A. ('58) and an M.A ('60), graduating with honors including Phi Beta Kappa, the Order of the Golden Fleece, and the Order of the Old Well. After graduating, he served as Director of Theatre at Davidson College and Professor of Drama and Design at East Carolina University. In 1970, John moved to Winston-Salem to become the founding Dean of the School of Design and Production at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He opened the School of D&P with three other faculty members and two dozen students, and quickly developed it into a highly respected and rigorous professional training program, now recognized among the finest of its kind in the world. He also established the first graduate program at the School of the Arts, an MFA in Design and Production. John served as D&P Dean for 32 years, and remained a beloved figure in the history of the school after his retirement in 2002. Affectionately known as the "Dean of Deans," he was the first to earn the title of Dean Emeritus at UNCSA, and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2015 in recognition of his many contributions to the School of Design and Production and to the industries it serves. In 2004, an endowed scholarship was established to honor John and Julia. The recipient of The John and Julia Sneden Endowed Award for Excellence embodies the standards of artistic excellence and academic accomplishment, along with demonstrated qualities of leadership, collaboration, passion, generosity of integrity and artistic spirit. In 2005, an outdoor space near the School of D&P was dedicated as Sneden's Landing, which was enhanced into a college quad in 2018. His lifelong passion for theatre and the arts was evident to all who knew him. He had many acting and design credits to his name; among the family favorites was his 1976 portrayal of Ben Franklin in a production written by his wife, Julia, as part of a Bicentennial series. The highlight was a performance at the Monomoy Theatre in Chatham, MA. A private family service will be held in Bergenfield, NJ, where John will be laid to rest alongside Julia, who has waited patiently for him to join her for the past 5 years. A campus celebration of John's life will be held at UNCSA this fall. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that gifts in memory of John be made to the UNCSA Foundation, Inc. for The John and Julia Sneden Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund, and mailed to the Office of Advancement, 1533 S. Main St., Winston-Salem, NC 27127. It wasn't lost upon those who knew him well that, in true John Sneden style, he chose to exit stage up on the Fourth of July, with fireworks bursting and symphonies blaring and colorful decorations marking the day. One last flair for the dramatic. He will be dearly missed.
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