In memoriam: Frederic Syburg, Notre Dame professor emeritus of film, television and theatre

Author: Michael O. Garvey

Frederic Syburg

Frederic Winkler Syburg, professor emeritus of film, television, and theatre at the University of Notre Dame, died Friday (Feb. 15) at Zilber Hospice in Wauwatosa, Wis. He was 88 years old.

A Milwaukee native, Syburg grew up there and graduated from Milwaukee University School before going to Brown University, where he studied for a year before enlisting in the Army Medical Corps at the outbreak of World War II.

After the war, Syburg studied at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, where he met his future wife, Jane Mitchel, then a student at neighboring Clarke College. Following the completion of his studies in theater and literature at Columbia University, they were married June 17, 1950, and settled in Dubuque, where Syburg became the first lay and male member of Clarke’s faculty.

In 1954, the Syburgs and their three children moved to South Bend, where Frederic joined the faculty of what was then called the Department of Speech and Drama at Notre Dame.

Syburg’s teaching career at Notre Dame spanned five decades. He directed some 50 productions including “The Importance of Being Ernest,” “Macbeth,” “The Tempest,” “Amadeus” and “Arms and the Man,” many of them staged in Washington Hall. He also earned a master’s degree from the University in 1961.

An accomplished actor, who performed in numerous Notre Dame and South Bend Civic Theater productions, Syburg was a member of the National Catholic Theatre Conference and served as the first vice-chairman of the honorary dramatic fraternity, Alpha Gamma Omega. He also worked as a speech consultant and coach for several corporate clients, but his favorite teaching assignment was always the Freshman Seminar program course in Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters. Notre Dame’s Alumni Association presented him with its Arthur S. Harvey Award in honor of his dedication to “young thespians and the University theatre” in 2005.

Fred and Jane Syburg were married for 56 years until her death in 2006. They are survived by their three children, Nancy Marie Syburg, Robert Mitchell (Barbara Simonds) Syburg and Ellen Syburg (Michael Francis) Bartel, and six grandchildren: Nora Alice and Max Henry Taylor; Hannah Lincoln and Richard Simonds Syburg and Michael Frederic (Fritz) and Mitchel Francis Bartel. Fred Syburg also is survived by his brother, Carl T. (Janet) Syburg, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

A Mass of Christian burial will take place April 1 (Monday) in South Bend, followed by interment in Notre Dame’s Cedar Grove cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Frederic W. and Jane M. Syburg Faculty Professional Development Fund at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, 4257 N. 100th St., Milwaukee, WI 53222, or the Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior St., Chicago, IL 60654.

Originally published by Michael O. Garvey at on February 20, 2013.