Olivet Nazarene University mourns the passing of beloved musician-mentor Harlow Hopkins

Olivet Nazarene University community joins together in mourning and celebrating Dr. Harlow Hopkins

George Wolff

January 16, 2024 Alumni & Friends, Arts & Music

Harlow Hopkins

Born and educated in Flint, Michigan, Harlow Hopkins began playing clarinet at the age of 7. He refined his musical talent in his high school band and orchestra, and through private lessons. In 1949, he began as a music major at Olivet Nazarene College, specializing in clarinet. While he participated in all the musical ensembles, he is noted as being the first student ever selected to direct Orpheus Choir in a piece while on tour. He married Olivet classmate and fellow musician Harriet (Boughan) in 1953.

While a senior, he was selected to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities, and upon graduation, was offered a teaching position at Olivet, advancing to a full-time position in 1954.

Serving his country in the Army, he spent the last 13 months of duty traveling Europe with the Seventh Army Symphony, promoting goodwill between the United States and European countries. During this time, he also continued to work on his master’s degree at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. He soon after received his master’s degree, having completed his thesis during Army leave. He would go on to earn his doctorate in music from Indiana University in 1974.

Dr. Hopkins would go on to serve Olivet as professor of music, director of band, and conductor of the university orchestra, while helping the university gain membership in the prestigious National Association of Schools of Music. An integral part of the leadership in construction of the Larsen Fine Arts Center, Dr. Hopkins continued to promote the advancement of music in the community. He served as principal clarinet for the Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra for 37 years, and conductor for two seasons. The KVSO named him Conductor Emeritus at their 50th Anniversary in 2018. Hopkins also performed regionally with his acclaimed ensemble, the Canterbury Trio.

Harlow & Harriet Hopkins

Dr. Harlow and Harriet Hopkins, pictured at the 2019 dedication of the sculpture installation, The Music Maker.


In total, Hopkins served Olivet Nazarene University as a faculty member for 41 years, including 29 years as the Chair of the Department of Music.

In November 1994, university president John C. Bowling presided over the dedication of the former Goodwin Hall as the renamed Harlow E. Hopkins Alumni Center. The dedication was especially meaningful, as the building had served as the Department of Music for Hopkins’ early years at the university. The musical staff-lined chalkboard Hopkins would use to teach music theory and composition classes still hangs on the south wall of the Hopkins Center Tea Room. The historic 1902 craftsman-style building had been artfully renovated by Dr. John and Jill Bowling in 1983 and updated to house offices and meeting spaces for the 1994 dedication.

Dr. Harlow Hopkins is the recipient of numerous awards, including “Outstanding Educator” and the 1974 Olivet “O “Award, as well as Faculty Member of the Year in 1991. In 2019, ONU and the Rotary Club of Bradley-Bourbonnais honored the dedicated Rotarian with a sculpture which is now installed in the Larsen Fine Arts Center. Titled “the Music Maker” the sculpture is dedicated to Hopkins, recognizing his commitment to the gift of music, and his commitment to reach others with that gift. He also received the Con Spirito award from the Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra in 2015. At the reception for the award Dr. Hopkins said, “I can’t imagine a life without music. It is a gift from God.” He went on to encourage the audience. “Share your enthusiasm. Buy someone a ticket.”

In August 2023, Harlow and Harriet celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

The entire Olivet Nazarene University community joins together in mourning and celebrating the beautiful, dedicated life of educator, musician, mentor and friend, Dr. Harlow Hopkins.

A funeral service for Dr. Harlow E. Hopkins will be held Saturday, February 3, 2024 at 11 a.m. at College Church of the Nazarene in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

George Wolff

George Wolff ’94 is a singer, actor and Creative Director and Partner with 989Group.

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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