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GLENDALE : $100,000 Bequeathed to Students of Arts

The late Helen Conner Nern may not be known for avidly attending musical or theatrical performances at Glendale Community College.

But one thing’s for certain: If she wasn’t recognized as a supporter before, the 94-year-old woman is now.

Nern, who died of a heart attack in December, left an unexpected $100,000 legacy earmarked for students in the college’s vocal and theater arts programs, officials announced last week.

The gift far surpasses any previous onetime contribution the college has received in its 67-year history, said Angela Battaglia, scholarship program assistant. A $24,000 endowment from Pauline Turrill in memory of her husband Russell--valedictorian of the class of 1945--comes closest.

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“It was a delightful surprise,” said Ted Stern, chairman of the music department, which oversees the vocal program. “Obviously, there’s enough money there so that the interest on the principal will generate a number of scholarships for a long time to come.”

“It took me completely off guard,” said Ken Gray, director of the theater arts department. “It’s usually more than you get for a community college.”

Neither Stern nor Gray ever met Nern. Confined to a wheelchair for the last 20 years of her life, Nern did not explain in her will exactly why she was so generous with Glendale College, said Joe B. Scatchard, Nern’s longtime neighbor and trustee of her estate.

“She just indicated in the trust that she wanted to give this $100,000 to Glendale College,” Scatchard said. “She was (just) interested in music.”

Nern may have identified with aspiring performers because she was one herself, he said. For most of her childhood in the early 1900s, the Huntington, Ind., native sang and pantomimed for her parents’ Christian evangelistic troupe that traveled the Midwest and Canada.

Her singing career ended in 1922 when she moved to Glendale and married Rodney Nern, who made a fortune in his office furniture business. Her husband died two years ago at the age of 98.

Though childless, the Nerns gave $150,000 to the Glendale YWCA in 1984 to establish a preschool center, which is named after the couple.

Gifts from the Nern trust totaled $750,000, including $200,000 to Purdue University in Indiana, $50,000 to the School of Theology in Claremont and $5,000 to the Braille Institute.

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Glendale College officials said the $100,000 endowment will be divided between the vocal and theater arts programs. No exact scholarship amounts have been determined, but “they’re going to be given for merit,” Battaglia said.


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