On Thursday, Dec. 5, many members of the university community gathered to celebrate the new endowments established by Trustee Mary Ritter, J.D., BA ’85, for the Dr. Eileen Gregory Scholarship in English and the Marilyn Walker Endowment for Music, which will benefit, respectively, English and music students at the University of Dallas. The Marilyn Walker Endowment for Music will additionally support faculty salaries and stipends, equipment purchases, or any other expenses related to building and maintaining the music program at UD.
“This is a really wonderful day in the life of the University of Dallas,” said President Thomas S. Hibbs, Ph.D., BA ’82 MA ’83, as he welcomed everyone to the event. “We have an opportunity here to honor, through permanently endowed funds, Dr. Gregory and Marilyn Walker, who have done so much over so many years for so many students; who've done so much to create and sustain the intellectual and artistic culture of the University of Dallas; who’ve been great collaborators with other faculty members and staff; who've worked with so many students; and who’ve helped us to have the kind of community that we all treasure here at the University of Dallas.”
Hibbs remarked that he found the occasion especially happy because one alumna donor made possible both of these endowments: “Mary Ritter, whom I've grown to really appreciate as a friend and a consultant and a supporter of me as president, as a member of the board. Mary does so many things for us. She's so enthusiastic about the University of Dallas from the time she was here as a student to this day.”
Associate Professor and Department Chair of English Debra Romanick Baldwin, Ph.D., spoke about Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English Eileen Gregory’s influence on the department and on UD: “I cannot, in under five minutes, do justice to the range of accomplishment, the depth of intelligence, the qualities of character, and the sheer generosity of spirit and action that have made Eileen Gregory so beloved of our department, our university, and generations of grateful alumni and friends.”
To illustrate this influence, Romanick Baldwin presented the image of a loaf of bread.
“I offer this image because she has, at times, arrived at my office with a loaf of the most wonderful bread, and always on days when I've had nothing to eat,” said Romanick Baldwin. “I am not the only one: her students, too, were regularly surprised by the gift of various treats – warm donuts, gourmet cookies, fresh fruit – always delicious and always on days when the body flagged and the person was wilting.”
She explained that this image was not just a metaphor: “[O]ur bodies really did need the physical energy and really did come to life with the delight of taste,” she said. “But it is also a metaphor, this gift of what sustains and what delights, this reminder of our fragile and contingent embodiment, and of how something seemingly small and exquisite and well-crafted — be it a loaf or a stanza — can occasion a moment of surprise, wonder, and friendship: friendship between text and reader, between student and teacher, and between and amongst those who, under her tutelage, have discovered the deeper hungers and delights of a liberal education.”
Next, Director of Music, Violin Professor and Director of Chamber Ensembles Kristin Van Cleve spoke about former Director of Music Marilyn Walker: “Today, we celebrate a gift that will support and foster music at UD for our students and for the wider UD community. We also celebrate Marilyn Walker, who is really the reason we have a music program at UD today.”
Arriving at UD in 1980, Walker served as director of the Music Department and as founding director of the Collegium Cantorum Choral Ensemble, developing and nurturing UD’s music program for over 30 years.
“I am particularly grateful to Marilyn because she hired me in 2007 to direct the chamber ensembles at UD,” said Van Cleve. “I was immediately struck by her deep knowledge, her passion for music, and her joy in sharing that passion with others, all of which were in evidence on a daily basis, from sacred Mass settings to musicals and operas to chamber music. ... I have spoken with so many alumni who consider their experiences as students of Marilyn to be some of the most meaningful of their time at UD.”
Van Cleve discussed how Walker revived music at UD with the Crowley Chamber Trio concert series last year.
“Now entering its second very successful season, this series has brought together old friends of UD and has cultivated new ones with evenings of chamber music and fellowship that are enriching experiences for all involved — performers and audience members alike,” said Van Cleve.
In her turn, Gregory offered musings on the nature of alumni gifts such as this one: “The secret life of a university is the same as the secret spirit working in our own lives,” she said. “It's the mystery of memory and the mystery of gratitude. Memory is a mystery because its deepest effects are hidden. The way that particular moments and the witness of individual people over time have shaped us to be who we are. The way that memory is embedded in character, in graciousness or generosity, in words and gestures, and thus has an ongoing life. And so students carry with them always the memory of their years here. Not so much individual memories, but a sense of awe at a process of awakening, of becoming, that transpires within learning. The even deeper mystery within the life of a university is gratitude. It's a mystery because it belongs to the necessity of the soul.”
The only way to repay this particular type of gratitude, as Gregory explained, is to give to somehow to someone else in the same way.
“They do so not in an abstract way, not in a in the material form of structures, but in the most essential aspect of a university's life,” she said. “A scholarship to support individual students as they themselves undergo the life of the classroom and the intellectual community. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is real. This is what is opened in the exchange between student and teacher. We thank Mary Ritter very sincerely for the gift that allows the initiation of this scholarship — thank her for her generosity in witnessing to her own life at UD in this way.”
Walker, too, shared her gratitude both for Ritter’s gift and for her own time at UD: “I look back at my years in residence, specifically the friendships that I made and will always cherish,” she said. “How much I loved and respected my students. Both a privilege and a challenge to teach. Keeping me on my toes. And how much I learned from them. My own musical, personal and spiritual growth as a result of all of these associations. I have always felt that I was the fortunate one. Being allowed to do just what I love to do and being given the priceless benefits just mentioned. What more could one desire? So thank you so much for this additional gift of all the gifts that I've been given.”
“It's truly a privilege to be able to support UD's faculty and specifically these two women here today,” said Ritter. “When students think about their college experience, they don't remember the administration. They remember the faculty that they had, and they remember their interactions with them both inside the classroom and outside. … I specifically remember sitting in Dr. Gregory's Romantic/Victorian literature class and being amazed at her insight.”
“Ms. Walker, while I never had the pleasure of singing with your group — and you should be relieved you never had the experience of listening to me sing — I'm so excited to support you and UD's music program,” she added. “Music is such an important part of the liberal arts and a well-rounded education, and the UD community will benefit from the Music Department in so many ways.”
“Dr. Gregory wrote me a very nice note in which she stated that this gift made a difference to UD, allowing its promise finally to have a chance of fulfillment,” concluded Ritter. “But I would argue that it's not this gift that does that. It's faculty like Dr. Gregory and Ms. Walker, who have worked tirelessly for years to bring these promises to fulfillment.”
To give to the Dr. Eileen Gregory Scholarship in English, please visit our existing endowed scholarships page. To learn more about the Marilyn Walker Endowment for Music or to make a gift, please visit Marilyn Walker’s endowment page. To create your own endowment, please contact Jason Wu Trujillo, Vice President for University Advancement, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-800-0927.