"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Making a $ commitment to U of M-Morris

Dave Mona used to tease Sid Hartman about being tight with his money. People who grew up during the Depression have peculiar traits about money and material possessions, peculiar at least by today's standards. It's quite understandable in the context of what these people experienced in the 1930s.
Of course that time period gets ever more remote. People were defensive and protective. They wouldn't discard anything. We're 180 degrees opposite in our tech age of today, where we discard generations of that stuff and acquire a new generation. Obsolescence is so rapid. We have come to accept that as the norm. Our family still has a bulky, heavy TV set which we thought was so shiny new when we got it.
I grew up in a family with parents who were clinging to values nurtured in the Depression. I considered getting a second bicycle once and my father had reservations. As a kid, I wore clothing too large because "I'd grow into those" (and then they wouldn't have to be replaced as fast). Bless my parents because they dealt with their environment as best they could.
Our family has been blessed by having had our assets increase thanks to compound interest, going back to that time when banks paid interest. Remember those times? Given that blessing along with general prudence, we are in position to share a little with the institution that brought us to Morris.
We did make a gift at the time my father passed away four years ago. Was it a large donation? That is very subjective to judge. I think that two or three decades ago, it would have been considered large. The endless bull market of the recent past has shifted our standards for judging what an appreciable amount of money is. So, our donation of four years ago sort of came and went.
We're trying to do a little more now. So I got out our checkbook in a manner just as novel as if Sid Hartman did it. This is just as unusual as if Hartman were to pick up the tab for a lunch gathering of sports VIPs! I wrote out a check for $10,000 to the University of Minnesota Foundation. The point is to help the music department. I'm told this will be a quasi endowed fund. We're not in a position at least at the moment to make it a perpetually endowed fund. There are deep pocket people or corporations way above us, of course. We're just a family that happens to be associated with UMM's origins.
I'm getting to an age where my personal memories are getting more important. I witnessed the campus right from the get-go when it was in rapid transition from being an ag school. I was struck by the campus "circle drive." Music concerts were at Edson Auditorium. The music headquarters was the old historic building that now serves the multi-ethnic element. I once watched football from an upper level when it was played at the old P.E. Miller Field.
Football moved to a new facility where it enjoyed its glory era under the likes of coaches Al Molde and Mike Simpson. A football program of that caliber served its purpose at the time. Fortunes later faded whereupon we "solved" that by getting into a new conference. I will always miss the days when we played the well-known state universities. I guess the end had to come, but I cannot shed too many tears because football may be losing its cultural relevance due to the health issues. Soccer promotes much pride.
Music has marched forward through all of this. The Homecoming concert may be the most special day all year for UMM music. There is a whole succession of concerts through the school year, some more esoteric than others. They all serve the grand purpose of celebrating the music discipline on the UMM campus. I feel highly confident that UMM music represents a terrific investment for people like Mom and I who are contributing funds.
Regardless of the direction and priorities of higher education in the years ahead, there will always be a need for a vibrant, exciting music department. It enriches and it entertains. It is a PR ambassador. And it is safe. Nothing like the 2005 goalpost incident would ever happen in connection to music. Leave it to sports for silliness like that. The UMM Homecoming concert is like a refuge on Homecoming weekend. It has nothing to do with knocking an opponent on his keister.
Remembering the very start
Let's drift back in time to November of 1960. Winter was setting in. Let's imagine the grand old armory building in Morris, located where the public library is now. The UMM band made its debut performance on Saturday, Nov. 5. My father Ralph E. Williams was the director. He was UMM's only music faculty in the institution's first year. He did more than was technically required of him. I think the whole faculty was like that.
Those were seminal days when the very future of the institution seemed not fully assured. We seemed experimental as this small publicly-funded liberal arts institution on the prairie. My father grew up in Glenwood (high school class of 1934) and was familiar with the environment.
On November 5 of 1960, Ralph E. Williams directed the UMM band adorned in its navy blue uniforms trimmed with maroon and gold.
We regularly hear comments about how we need more of a bond between campus and community. The comment surfaces so regularly, I'm almost inclined to laugh when it comes up. UMM's debut band concert epitomized that hoped-for bond because the audience was Stevens County 4-Hers and their parents! An audience of about 1000 was present. Our band had about 50 pieces with the roster including six selected players from the Morris High School band.
"A band of this size was not anticipated the first year," we read in the Morris paper. The armory burned down in about 1966. The campus got through its experimental phase and became quite permanent. And today the Williams family, Martha and Brian, is pleased to renew its commitment, lest people think we're just yesterday's news.
Click on this link to read about the UMM men's chorus' trip to the New York World's Fair in 1964:
Here you can read about the historic trip in 1962 of the men's chorus to the Seattle World's Fair a.k.a. Century 21 Exposition:
You may listen to the sounds of the early UMM men's chorus, from YouTube, via this link. It's exciting:
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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