Although I have spent nearly 40 years in higher education, it only has been in the past seven years — during which I have served as director of the University of Iowa School of Music — that I have come to fully appreciate the ways in which individual generosity transforms and sustains our institution at every level.
One of most enjoyable aspects of my work is meeting with our school’s alumni and friends. In the years leading up to the much-anticipated opening of the new Voxman Music Building, I met with dozens of people who were eager to share stories from their Iowa days, learn about the status of the construction, and express their enthusiasm for what it meant for music at Iowa.
Last fall, a week before we opened Voxman to the public, we had the pleasure of hosting the 50th anniversary of the UI Symphony Band’s 1966 tour to Europe and the Soviet Union. More than 60 members of the ensemble gathered to celebrate the seven-week odyssey, sponsored by the State Department, that had become the basis of a lifelong bond for the band’s members. I was amazed by their camaraderie — and by the way in which that shared experience had shaped their lives.
Virtually all of them had given back to the University of Iowa. Some spoke to me of their desires to support student scholarships, to ensure that current and future students have the same life-changing experiences they had. Others were motivated to keep the arts vibrant and central to our university, and they contributed to the rebuilding of the Arts Campus or to specific academic or performance programs. Still others wanted to honor the memories of especially important mentors or teachers.
I believe that all of these individuals, and the many thousands of others who give so generously, do so as a response to the wellspring of possibility and hope that is the University of Iowa.
In the words of the oft-quoted Greek proverb, “A society grows great when old men [and women] plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” Acts of philanthropy are investments in the dreams and aspirations of students and in our shared commitment to learning and discovery. We are transformed by collective generosity.
– David Gier
Director, University of Iowa School of Music
– Erich Funke
Professor, UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
2017 We Are Phil Co-Chair