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Henri B Pensis

March 18, 1927 December 23, 2018
Henri B Pensis
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Obituary for Henri B Pensis

Henri B. Pensis passed away at Bethel Home on Sunday, December 23, 2018. Henri was born to Henri and Marie Louise (Deltgen) Pensis on March 18, 1927, in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. Henri and his family emigrated to the United States in 1940, where they initially settled in New York City. They then moved to Sioux City, IA where he finished high school before being drafted into the United States Army where he was a member of the Army Band.
After the war, Henri earned his Bachelor of Music degree in 1950 and Master’s degree of Music in 1951 from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. It was during his time at Northwestern that he met Patricia A. Robinson. Patricia and Henri were married on June 14, 1951.
While he was studying at Northwestern, Henri organized a student chamber orchestra and served as its conductor from 1947-1951. His first full-time job came in 1952 when he was hired as chair of the music department of Salem College in Salem, WV. He held this position until 1955 when he left to join the faculty of Central Methodist College in Fayette, Missouri. His duties included teaching woodwinds and building and conducting the college orchestra. His tenure at Central Methodist College lasted for 10 years. He then accepted his final position as Music Professor and Conductor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in Oshkosh, Wisconsin which he held from 1965 until his retirement thirty years later in 1995.
In 1967 Henri became the Music Director and Conductor of the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra. He spent the next 29 years developing the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra into a highly regarded regional orchestra that presented a large repertoire of music and hosted many internationally renowned soloists including Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zuckerman, Robert Merrill, and Glen Dicterow. Under his aegis The Oshkosh Symphony made recordings of the music of Virgil Thomson and Lukas Foss. The recording of music of Virgil Thomson included a composition commissioned by Henri and the Oshkosh Symphony entitled, “Eleven Portraits for Orchestra”. That piece was given its world premiere in April of 1983 and it commemorated his 15th anniversary with the Oshkosh Symphony.
Henri was active in many organizations during his time in Wisconsin. He was a member of the American Symphony League as well as the Association of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestras, serving on its executive committee and as its president. He was given an Outstanding Service award by this organization in 2002. He received numerous other awards throughout his career including the Key to the City of Oshkosh in 1976. And it was also in 1976 that the United States Ambassador to Luxembourg honored him with a Certificate of Appreciation. In 1988 he also received a certificate of commendation from the Governor of Wisconsin in 1988 and Henri B. Pensis Day was declared in his honor. In 1996 his contributions to music in Wisconsin were recognized when Maestro Pensis Week was proclaimed in his honor. The Oshkosh Northwestern recognized him as an Influential Citizen in 1993.
During his retirement Henri worked with Eric Segnitz to create a commercial recording of music entitled, “20th Century Contrasts”, for the Albany Record label. The recording featured works by Lukas Foss, William Bolcom, Alec Wilder, Quincy Porter, John Adams, Michael Daugherty, and a piece written by his father, the “Fantasy on Two Christmas Carols”.
Henri is survived by his loving wife of 67 years, Patricia; two sons, Henri Paul (Melissa) Pensis of Indianapolis, IN, Claude Norris (Daron) Pensis of Scottsdale, AZ; and grandchildren, Samantha (Scott) Bussell, Evan Pensis, Brendan (Danielle) Pensis; and great-grandson, Theodore Henri Pensis, son of Brendan and Danielle. A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date.
The family would like to thank Home Instead Caregivers, Heartland Hospice, Bethel Home, Rev. Dan and Laurie Krause, Kathy Scherer, Shirley Zumstein, and the Tribbey family for all their care and loving support.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Maestro Henri Pensis Scholarship at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Foundation for incoming freshman in oboe or strings.


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