Chapin's prominence in the worlds of art, culture, and academe may be surprising, given he did not attend college, nor even graduate from high school, having failed to complete a math requirement (one can only imagine how he would have felt about Frontiers of Science). His familial roots in New York, however, ran deep - he could trace his ancestry back to 17th century New Amsterdam and to Revolutionary War confidantes of George Washington, and he grew up in a world of servants and governoresses on the Upper East Side.
Despite his lack of academic success, he managed to find a place studying at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Once there, however, he was summarily informed that he lacked talent. At his teacher's suggestion, he vowed to become an impresario instead. He later held prominent roles in the arts world, serving as assistant general manager of the Metropolitan Opera and as New York City Commissioner for Cultural Affairs under mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Decades after his attendance, his old high school recognized his achievements with a degree honoris causa.
Chapin took the SoA deanship after his rocky tenure at the Met. He said he told the University President, William McGill, that he had never gone to college, but McGill responded, jokingly, "Oh well, it’s the arts".
- Report on the latest Butler Medal recipients, Columbia News, Jan 30, 2006
|Dean of the School of the Arts