Matching last year’s record-breaking donation to UC Irvine’s School of the Arts, a Newport Beach woman has again given $1 million to the music department to establish new programs and opportunities for its students, a campus spokesman said Thursday.
The gift from Marjorie Rawlins, a longtime patron and supporter of UCI’s music programs, will establish the first endowed chair at the School of the Arts. Rawlins’ previous $1-million donation established undergraduate scholarships in piano, violin, viola and cello.
Jill Beck, dean of the School of the Arts, said the latest donation will give provide music department officials with funds for a broad range of improvements, including more tours, frequent guest appearances by internationally known musicians, a more competitive approach to recruitment and the chance to combine performances with the school’s drama and dance departments.
“The wonderful thing about this gift is that it is not directed at one particular faculty member or subject,” Beck said. “Marjorie has thought of the department as an entire unit, and because of that, it will benefit all of [the students] one way or another.”
The money will create the Robert and Marjorie Rawlins Chair in the Department of Music, named for the donor and her late husband, a former engineer and venture capitalist. Rawlins, whose love of music was instilled by her parents, said she is fortunate to be able to help UCI students discover “the timeless grace of beautiful music.” She said she’s engaged by the liveliness of the music department’s 114 young artists and has “a lot of faith in young people.”
“UCI already has the best drama and dance programs of any place around,” Rawlins said Thursday. “I want the music to come up to that same standard. And it will.”
Besides attracting “top-notch faculty,” an endowed chair also reflects the quality of programs already in place at the school, Beck said. The money will give students more opportunities to be mentored by master vocal coaches, musicians and composers, as well as bring in guest professional conductors to work with the UCI Symphony Orchestra, she said.
Rawlins “has a very deep, fundamental belief that the arts are important to the fabric of life,” Beck said. “And because she is very in touch with our students, I think they respect and appreciate her gifts even more.”
Rawlins, 76, has long studied piano and was offered a fellowship in 1942 to the renowned Eastman School of Music in New York. She said she got married instead and moved to California, where she and her husband “always kept music alive in our home.” Robert Rawlins died three years ago.
The couple’s support of UCI’s music programs began more than a decade ago when they attended a New York String Quartet performance on campus. Since then, Rawlins has been a regular at UCI concerts and hosted events for the music department, including student and faculty recitals at her Balboa Island home.
“I’ve always been drawn to universities because I find the most interesting people there,” Rawlins said. “Now I’ve become intent on seeing UCI’s music school increase in importance and acknowledgment. It is excellent, and becoming more so, but it takes time.”