Gifts in Action
We are deeply grateful for all of the support we receive.
Thank you to our many donors and volunteers who make UMS an outstanding performing arts presenting organization. Here we highlight just a few of the stories of your gifts in action.
Powering the Performance Arts
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The moment we hear those words, a familiar storyline comes to mind. We conjure up images of Scrooge. Marley. Tiny Tim. We know exactly what to expect.
But this past December, theater-goers in Ann Arbor were able to experience the beloved holiday classic in a decidedly unexpected and unfamiliar way.
At each performance, audience members—never more than 150—were escorted onto the Power Center stage. There, in seats clustered around a replica of Scrooge’s office, they literally became part of the unfolding story. One performance was presented exclusively for children and adults with special needs.
This event was made possible in part by a $50,000 gift from longtime UMS supporters Phil and Kathy Power. A past member of the UMS Board, Phil notes that he grew up in a family with a passionate interest in the performing arts. “My parents were co-founders of the Dramatic Arts Center in Ann Arbor,” he recalls. “In 1960, when my father was serving as a U-M Regent, President Fleming asked him to consider funding a venue dedicated to music, dance and theater productions.” The result was the Power Center for the Performing Arts.
What inspired such generous funding for this innovative retelling of A Christmas Carol? Phil explains it this way: “The gift was motivated by our joint sense of delight in the performing arts and our passion for making those experiences widely available. We’re particularly interested in events that are not only educational and informing, but challenging and thought-provoking.”
There are other motivating factors as well. “As former vice-chair of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, I know how important Ann Arbor’s cultural assets are to the economic well-being of our state,” says Phil. “I also know that Ken Fischer and his staff recognize how imperative it is to provide the highest quality, most imaginative programming possible while always being mindful of financial consequences. That makes UMS an excellent choice for anyone who wants to invest wisely in the arts.”
Guaranteeing performances in perpetuity
Whenever the topic of conversation turns to chamber music, Carl Cohen’s voice takes on a rapturous tone. The professor of philosophy, who recently marked his 61st year of teaching at the University, notes that he has been attending UMS performances “almost forever.” And while he enjoys many genres of music, he readily admits his preference for the Chamber Arts Series. “That music always reaches me and gives me a profound satisfaction,” he says. “I’m especially fond of Schubert’s songs and, in fact, listen to them every day in the car.”
After reflecting on the impact the arts have had on his life, Cohen decided to sponsor one of these eagerly anticipated Chamber Arts performances through a unique endowment to UMS. Following his death, a bequest of $500,000 will pass to UMS for the express purpose of funding a chamber music presentation every year, in perpetuity. During the course of his remaining life, until this bequest is realized, he will make a gift of $15,000 to sponsor one Chamber Arts concert each season.
What prompted such generosity? “The inspiration came from [Art History Professor Emerita] Ilene Forsyth, my wonderful colleague, a great scholar and an ornament to the University, now retired,” he explains. “When I learned about the similar endowment gift she made to UMS last year, I decided to follow in her footsteps.”
But there was another motivator as well: the notion that his gift would never stop giving. “What really nudged me was the idea of supporting UMS in perpetuity,” he says. “In perpetuity. Those two words mean everything to me. I like the idea that this endowment will continue to provide beautiful music for the U-M community indefinitely. Without termination. And I would hope that two or three or four other faculty would do the same by providing endowed support for UMS.”
Paying it Forward
As U-M grad students in the ‘70s, Steve and Ros Forrest shared the musical tastes of their generation. Topping their list of favorites were Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.
But through the influence of their parents, they also had an affinity for classical music that drew them to UMS. “During our student years,” Ros recalls, “we attended some truly memorable events, including Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Martha Graham and Alvin Ailey dance companies.”
“The fact is,” Steve notes, “UMS gave us our first significant exposure to the musical and performing arts that now permeate our lives. If we hadn’t come to the University of Michigan, it’s not at all certain that we would appreciate music as deeply as we do today. UMS introduced us to this world at a time when we were ready to be introduced to it.”
For 30-plus years, Ros and Steve pursued their careers from coast to coast. In 2006, Steve accepted the position of U-M Vice President for Research. Once again, the couple found themselves back in Ann Arbor enjoying UMS events.
Within a short time, Ros had been recruited to the UMS Ambassadors, one of UMS’s primary volunteer groups. Despite his demanding schedule, Steve served on the UMS Board of Directors, which he now chairs.
In 2015, they made a $100,000 endowed gift to fund discounted student tickets to UMS events.
“Tickets are becoming more and more expensive, and the economic pressure on today’s students is extreme,” Ros says. “We want young people to experience the arts as we did and to leave the university with a lifelong interest. And we like the idea that our gift will endure.”
To which Steve adds: “Occasionally, students from small communities arrive at Michigan with no exposure to the performing arts. When they attend UMS events, it can literally change their lives. If that happens with even one student in the cohort, we’ll be pleased.” He pauses, then adds with a grin, “But I suspect it will happen to more than one.”