Zildjian, Robert

Degree conferred: Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.)

Orator: Maier, Sarah E.

To be Doctor of Letters

Today, we have the opportunity to honour a man who respects the artistry of the past while seeking to make the most of the present to create a strong legacy for his family.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1923, Robert Zildjian began working afternoons and Saturdays at his father’s cymbal factory until he decided to become a young entrepreneur; demonstrating an early ambition to make his own decisions, he left the company for a paper route that paid him four times what his father allowed him to keep from his wages. Raised with a strong sense of country and duty, he served in the US Army as an infantryman in Europe during World War II,; after the War, with an equally intense desire, returned to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire to finish his degree in philosophy and history before he returned to work at the Avedis Zildjian Company. More recently, he has received certificates of achievement from Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota and the Université De Nancy, in Lorraine, France.

The 1950s and 1960s saw Mr. Zildjian travelling with his wife, Willie, throughout Europe until they convinced more members of the Zildjian family in Instanbul, Turkey, to relocate to North America, bringing with them “the ancient concept of hand hammering the cymbals.”

When the company chose to build its plant in Meductic, New Brunswick -- a favourite salmon fishing spot of the family – Mr. Zildjian happily began to indulge in his much-loved hobby while planning for the future.

After a difficult period of turmoil within the family business, Robert Zildjian gained full control over the Meductic plant and the company’s overseas market, and – “ever the family man” – “he took the first two initials from the first names of his children (SAlly, BIlly, ANdy) [to create] his new company, Sabian.” It is this company, Sabian, that stands as a creative force in the music industry today.

An advocate of “trying the unthinkable” and listening to the needs of his customers, he has led his “family” of artistans and workers to create signature cymbals with what his friends call “a supreme passion for the music, for the people in the music industry, and for moving the art form forward in as many ways as possible” with a modern vision and through creative innovation.

Sabian cymbals are proudly used by rock star Phil Collins, musicians Jeff Watts, Chad Smith and others who have a “groovy kind of love” for the extraordinary quality of the Sabian “crash.” They are also the cymbal of choice for the New York Philharmonic, the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal, the Philadelphia Orchestra, many marching bands and players of Guitar Hero, all the while being exported to the United States, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, and South Korea which makes Sabian the second largest manufacturer of cymbals in the world.

Known as a generous, caring man, Robert Zildjian makes sure that his company stands for those values he believes central to community leadership such as the creation of scholarships for young musicians and recycling programs to protect the environment. Aside from the business acumen that has made him a participant and leader in the industry for more than sixty-five years, it is his “infectious sense of fun and palpable sense of joy,” his “deep pride,” “enthusiasm” and loyalty that make him a much beloved father, husband, employer and friend.

For these reasons, we welcome him today to our UNB family.

From: Honoris Causa - UA Case 70, Box 4

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