Cover photo for Dr. Phillip Richard Szeitz's Obituary
Dr. Phillip Richard Szeitz Profile Photo
1930 Dr. 2022

Dr. Phillip Richard Szeitz

January 5, 1930 — June 27, 2022

Philip Richard Szeitz was born on Jan 5th , 1930 in Budapest, Hungary to Richard Szeitz and Maria Lammel. They lived in Buda, on the hilly side of the Danube River.

His father was an architect and builder. His mother was a resourceful housewife, helping her family survive WWII, occupation and worse, until Richard’s father passed away in 1955, then she worked as an administrator in doctors’ offices and in a pharmacy. She remarried, and continued to be a pillar of her family, always available to spend time with her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, and staying busy with various beautiful embroideries and other amazing hand-crafts. She passed away at the age of 96.

Richard’s early years, from ages 11-18 in the Cisterci School defined his life in many respects. He was given a great ethical and spiritual education, while also becoming lifelong friends with his fellow students, scouting troupe and teachers. He was a very lively boy, who organized cycling and model making branches of the scouts in school. Even after retirement Richard still enjoyed trips to local lakes with his kayak or rides on his bicycle with his enthusiastic canine companion, Cooper.

In his early teens he and his friends greatly admired Native American culture. They crafted clothing, tools, bead decorations, pipes, and arrows, and gave themselves names. They read everything they could get their hands on…with their idealistic childlike souls, and in his final years his worn Hungarian language copy of “Winnetou, Old Shatterhand” was his favorite book, read to him by his daughters, Lammel and Magda.

After surviving WWII with his family, he graduated at 18 and left Budapest to attend the Cisterci seminary in Zirc, West Hungary.  Sadly, only one year later, in 1948, under Communist occupation, the seminary and the denomination were dissolved, the schools closed, and many cistercians were imprisoned and died. In September of 1950, Richard and 12 of his fellow cistercians, later known as “The Lucky 13,” were among the first of their order to successfully escape Hungary.

Richard then spent some time studying in Rome , Italy, and i n the mid 1950’s he was transferred to the United States, where he attended the Layton School of Design for his BFA, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, for his MS & MFA in Art. H e also remained active as a member and leader in the Boy Scouts, organizing excursions, bicycling, camping, and kayaking. He even purchased a vehicle to take the Scouts on trips.

He became a US Citizen in 1961.

Richard taught at Edgewood College in Madison, and was a Professor and then Chair of the Art Department at the University of Dallas from 1960-1965. While there he was instrumental in the development of their Art program and hiring faculty that carried his vision forward.

After much deliberation Richard decided to leave the Cistercian Order. He applied for, and received, a full dispensation and continued to have a good relationship with his former brothers and colleagues in the Catholic Church.

In late 1965 he married Patricia Anne McGowan and together they traveled to the Autonomous University of Guadalajara where he was a Fullbright-Hayes lecturer and consultant. For many years the family enjoyed using the beautiful Tonala pottery collected during their time there.

Richard and Patty then moved north where Richard found a new home at the University of Minnesota, Moorhead, then known as Moorhead State College, where he joined the faculty of the Art Department from 1966-1997. Richard was a generous teacher and leader. He nurtured the growth and development of a healthy and vibrant Art Department that grew from a few rooms in the corner of the music building, to its own building with state of the art facilities for multiple artistic disciplines including art education, art history, drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, glass, printmaking , photography, illustration, and graphic design, with room for students to combine media, and move freely between studios. He is still remembered by his many students and colleagues from the over 30 years he spent as a Professional Artist and as an Art Educator and University Administrator. The Art Department at Moorhead was a direct reflection of his heart and soul as an artist and mentor and his greatest contribution to his community.

Richard was Co-founder of the Lake Agassiz Art Council, and it’s President for a few years, he also co-founded Fall Imagination Festivals in the 1970’s, and was a member of the Board or the Red River Arts Center (predecessor to the Plains Art Museum.) Richard was a delegate to the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, and served as a member of various panels for the Minnesota State Arts Board from 1996-2004. In his later years Richard and his second wife Karen Patek Szeitz, were active members of the Fargo Moorhead Visual Artists organization.

Richard and Karen enjoyed many years together traveling both nationally and internationally, attending regular concerts at the Minneapolis Symphony, visiting family, and continuing to create artwork in their home studio.

Richard generously donated many works to local and regional art centers including the Plains Art Museum, to support local arts and arts education. He has been honored with exhibits throughout the US and in his former home Budapest, Hungary.

During his years as an academic and advocate for the arts, he also created many custom, site specific public and private artworks, including the “Flood Memorial” in Grand Forks , ND; the copper “Fountain of Abundance” at West Acres Mall in Fargo, ND; “Cluster of Prairie Grasses” at the Buffalo River Regional Science Center near Dilworth, MN; Copper reliefs, Alter and Processional crosses, for local Churches in Fargo, ND and Moorhead, MN; and many more fountains and sculptures throughout the Midwest region and United States. He also created bronze medallions to honor faculty and commemorate significant events for the local Universities including MSUM and NDSU. Near the time of his own retirement from MSUM Richard created the plaque for his friend and colleague Roland Dille on the Dille Center for the Arts.

In the early 60’s Richard received requests to produce some of his images in 3 dimensional form, and after his first experiments with welded steel he switched to brazed copper which became his preferred medium. Human figures, animals, and biomorphic abstract forms were employed in his works. Sculptural projects dominated his creative output, occasionally interrupted by experimentations with caste bronze, paintings, prints, collages, photography and computer generated or enhanced images.

His design expression utilizes symbolism and communication on several levels to convey relatable meaning and ideas. His content and forms take into account the diversity of the viewers frames of reference.

Richard spent his final years surrounded by his immediate family and friends, and enjoyed FaceTiming with his sister in Budapest, keeping up with current events, watching movies, reading, good food and long naps. He passed peacefully in his sleep in the home he shared with his daughter and granddaughter in Moorhead, MN.

Richard is survived by his former wife, Patty (McGowan) Sandgren, Barnesville, MN and his two daughters: Lammel Szeitz of Las Vegas, NV, and her children Gabriel (LV) and Sage Rose in Oceanside, CA; and Magda Szeitz and her daughter Quin Sophia, Moorhead, MN. Also by his sister Gabriella Szeitz of Budapest, Hungary, and her daughter Nora Tarczy Novak of Oxford, England and several Grand and Greatgrand neices and nephews. He was preceded in his passing by his dear niece Marta Tarczy.

Richard is also survived by his second wife, Karen Patek Szeitz, who was his travel companion, and loving wife for the last 25 years, and her daughters Sarah (Williams) Haug and Elizabeth (Williams) Bercaw, and their spouses and children.

Funeral Services for Philip Richard Szeitz will be held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Moorhead, MN. Visitation 10am, Funeral Service at 11am on Wednesday July 27th, 2022. A light lunch will be served following the service. Sharing of fond memories will be encouraged at that time.


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Service Schedule

Past Services


Thursday, July 27, 2023

Starts at 10:00 am (Central time)

St. Joseph's Catholic Church

218 South 10th St, Moorhead, MN 56560

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Thursday, July 27, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Central time)

St. Joseph's Catholic Church

218 South 10th St, Moorhead, MN 56560

Plant Trees

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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