Max V. Exner


Max V. Exner, choral music leader and composer, Ames, Iowa, on December 30, 2004. Exner was born on January 13, 1910, in Shanghai. He earned an A.B. in English literature and modern languages from the College and in 1947 earned an M.A. in musicology, composition, conducting and organ from GSAS. After graduation, the Joseph E. Bearnes national composition award allowed Exner to study for a year at the Neues Wiener Konservatorium in Vienna, Austria, his father’s birth country; he received a certificate in conducting and organ in 1937. During WWII, Exner served as field radio operator in the Tunisian campaign and was wounded in action. After recovery, he served first as a French interpreter for a unit of engineers and then as a radio operator on Corsica. In Florence, Italy, in 1945, Exner sang weekly in the mass in a choir of Jesuit monks, standing in his brown uniform among their black cowls. After the war, he composed a full mass in the brothers’ honor, which they performed. Exner met his wife, Eileen Smithers, when both worked for the Extension Service in New York State prior to WWII. They married on November 9, 1945, and moved to Ames, where Exner served in the Extension Service as the State Music Specialist from 1947–80. Exner conducted area training schools for teachers and church musicians and established a music lending library for choir directors. He directed church choirs for more than 70 years, including at Riverside Church. His choral music has been printed by seven publishers, and his anthem, I Have a Dream, was approved by the Martin Luther King Foundation and has been performed widely. In Ames, Exner was active in the arts, participating in choral festivals, the Heartland Senior Variety Show and other events. With his wife, he directed the Ames International Folk Dancers for many years. Exner is survived by his wife; children, Rick (Susan Jarnagin), Heide Larson (Henry) and Alison Kaiser (Helmut); and five grandchildren. His was predeceased by a daughter, Holly Susan Exner-Thompson (Dean Thompson).