Big gift spurs Mercer’s music school
Music programs at Mercer University just got a significant boost, thanks to a multimillion-dollar commitment from Macon resident Jo Phelps Fabian.
The donation, large enough to match the founding gift for the Townsend School of Music, is the biggest sum ever given to support the arts at the school.
“Through the invisible hands of music the soul is touched and healed,” Fabian, once a board member of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, said in a statement as an explanation for her gift.
The donation will establish the Jo Phelps Fabian Center for Musical Excellence. That will add to the experience that music students are already getting at Mercer, said David Keith, dean of the Townsend School of Music.
“It will expand everything,” Keith said. “The gift will be used to support the academic programs we already have going.”
In addition, the donation will help beef up the Fabian Concert Series to become the Fabian Concert and Lecture Series. The new program will include lectures about the intertwining of philosophy, music and the other arts and will be open to the public.
That will allow for a deeper understanding of music, cultivating a series that “enriches everyone’s lives,” Keith said.
The series and other concerts through the Townsend School of Music were already assets to the community, said Jonathan Harwell-Dye, director of communications for the Macon Arts Alliance. An increased focus on the arts would be a benefit because of the existing arts opportunities across Middle Georgia.
“They’re an important part of what we have to offer as a community,” Harwell-Dye said.
A third focus for the funds provided through the gift will be the Fabian Scholars program for exceptional students. Keith said the existing student body for the music school was already impressive -- close to 45 percent made the dean’s list last semester -- but a new scholarship program is expected to deepen the talent pool.
“That will allow us to recruit and bring in the most talented students,” Keith said.
While the exact amount of the gift was not released, donations of its size “don’t come along very often,” said Larry Brumley, Mercer’s senior vice president for marketing communications and chief of staff. Of all the gifts Mercer has received, other than those from foundations, only two or three have been in the “ballpark” of Fabian’s, he said.
Thursday’s announcement comes on the heels of another notable financial boost, the naming deal with Five Star Automotive Group for the football stadium.
“I believe Mercer has a lot of momentum,” Brumley said. “Donors like to partner with successful programs.”
Brumley also pointed to the Aspire campaign, a drive for $400 million that Mercer President Bill Underwood announced in October for endowment, capital projects and operations. While Brumley said such programs often result in an uptick in large gifts, the Aspire effort also leaves plenty of giving left to be done.
“To reach $400 million, we’re going to have to have a number of these types of gifts,” he said.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.