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Gift funds horn studio to recruit, support students

Nov. 2, 2005

KALAMAZOO--A gift from a Colorado couple with deep ties to Western Michigan University will establish a permanent endowment for a horn studio to recruit talented music students and support their activities once they arrive on campus.

Robert R. Fink, a longtime WMU music professor and former chair of what was then the WMU Department of Music, and his wife, WMU alumna Ruth J. Fink, are supporting the creation of the Robert R. and Ruth J. Fink Horn Studio Endowment with an initial gift of $30,000. They also have agreed to make annual gifts of $1,500 to support the French Horn Studio until the endowment becomes active, which will take place when either five years has passed or the endowment reaches $50,000.

Proceeds from the endowment will be at the discretion of the director of the WMU School of Music. Possible use of the funds includes:

Student recruitment activities, such as support of school visitations and workshops, annual horn festivals for high school students, sample private lessons for prospective students and Web site development.

Improvement to student instruction, through student and faculty attendance at workshops and conferences, visits by guest artists, recordings and CD production, acquisition of sheet music and related study aides and supplies.

Facility improvement, such as equipment purchases and renovation.

The music school will provide the donors annual reports on the use of funds. Dr. Richard O'Hearn, the school's director, says the endowment will be a boon to the University's music offerings.

"The school of music is especially pleased that this gift will be used to support enrichment activities for all horn students and recruitment activities, such as Horn Fest, which will attract top-notch students to the school of music," O'Hearn says.

In 1957, Robert Fink became WMU's first full-time faculty specialist in horn with additional teaching responsibilities in music theory. He served WMU for more than 21 years, teaching a number of music history courses and conducting various ensembles. He was a founding member of the Western Brass Quintet and the Western Wind Quintet and for 10 years, served as principal horn in the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra.

In 1967, he was appointed assistant chairperson of what was then the Department of Music, and he was deeply involved in the planning a new facility, which became the Dalton Center. In 1972, he succeeded Dr. Robert Holms as department chair, serving until 1978 when he was appointed dean of the College of Music at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He served at UC-Boulder for 15 years, retiring in 1993.

Ruth Fink earned a master's degree in speech pathology and audiology and the equivalent of a master's in special education/learning disabilities from WMU. She then earned a doctorate in language disorders and learning disabilities from UC-Boulder, before serving there as adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Education and director of disability services.

She also has worked as a speech-language pathologist, special education teacher, teacher trainer, educational diagnostician, learning disabilities specialist, and regular and special education consultant in the public schools of Michigan and Colorado and in higher education in Colorado and Wyoming for a total of 32 years.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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