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Gifts establish ‘best ever’ UW-Madison music scholarships

December 18, 2007

Glen A. Skillrud and Winifred Skillrud of San Antonio, Texas, have made gifts to establish what are being called the two best undergraduate scholarships in the history of the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Music.

The Glen and Wendy Skillrud Music Scholarships will be awarded to an undergraduate soprano and a pianist starting in 2008. Each scholarship will be based on performance and awarded in part through competitive auditions.

Each scholarship will cover tuition, room and board, and book costs for a "full-ride" scholarship. Also included will be an additional allowance for the students to purchase suitable recital clothing. Depending on the students’ progress, the scholarships may be renewed for up to four years.

"These two scholarships — for piano and soprano voice — are essentially the two best undergraduate scholarships we have ever been able to offer," says John Schaffer, director of the School of Music and professor of music theory. "These gifts are as good as they get. The Skillruds’ generosity will help us recruit the best in-state undergraduate performers in a way we haven’t been able to before."

Glen is retired from owning and operating the Truax Plaza Center and was trained by the U.S. Navy as a fighter pilot in World War II. Wendy is an accomplished pianist and vocalist, and Glen said her talents and interests inspired the gifts. A previous family gift to UW–Madison endowed the Glen A. Skillrud Family Chair in the School of Business.

"Wendy is an excellent musician, and she won three Texas state and national competitions when she was in high school, played the piano before an audience at the age of 3 and was a first soloist at her church at the age of 16," Glen says. "She sang for service men around San Antonio during World War II, and she performed for President Reagan when we were living in the San Jose area" of California.

When the Skillruds were considering a gift to benefit UW–Madison undergraduates, music students came naturally to mind. "These scholarships are in honor of all the hard work she did to develop her musical talents," Glen says.

The first scholarships will be awarded for the fall 2008 semester. Schaffer says faculty members are excited by the prospect, and the voice faculty already has auditioned "the best undergraduate soprano they’ve auditioned in years."

Schaffer said top Wisconsin high school performers sometimes look elsewhere for college because of perceived glamour, even though the UW–Madison School of Music ranks 19th of more than 700 such public institutions in recent U.S. News and World Report ratings.

"I’ve heard students say, ‘Why should I consider the UW–Madison when I’m being recruited by the Juilliard School or the Eastman School of Music?’ These scholarships will give us a way to say to them, ‘You won’t have to pay a thing for four years except for food on the weekends,’" Schaffer says.

Glen Skillrud said that if any talented San Antonio students were eligible and had auditions, "we certainly would put in a good word for them."