Douglas Lowry has been endowed as the first Joan and Marty Messinger Dean of the Eastman School of Music. Courtesy of Helene Snihur

In a monumental gesture of financial support for the University’s long standing commitment to excellence in music education, Martin E. Messinger, alumnus and Life Trustee of the University, made the decision to endow the position of Dean of the Eastman School of Music last Friday.

Messinger’s philanthropic legacy spans more than four decades of generous support for numerous diverse endeavors both on the River Campus and at Eastman. This endowment will establish Douglas Lowry as the first Joan and Marty Messinger Dean of the Eastman School in September 2011.

“It is an extraordinarily generous commitment on the part of Marty — a longtime supporter of the University,” Lowry, who has served as Dean of the Eastman School since August 2007, said. “We are, in a word, thrilled, and I am deeply honored.”
Messinger grew up in Rochester and graduated from UR in 1949 with a degree in economics and business. He established a philanthropic foundation in 1998 with his wife Joan and their four daughters to facilitate his family’s ongoing commitment of giving back to the University.

His munificent donations have reflected his wide-ranging interests, including projects from the restoration of the Periodical Reading Room in Rush Rhees Library, to funding for the student Debate Union, to the annual Library Recognition Award, to the Center for Judaic Studies.

Messinger previously demonstrated his family’s affinity for the Eastman School through financial contributions that enabled the construction of a new home for the Eastman Community Music School at 100 Gibbs St. It was completed in October 2005 and named in honor of Messinger’s mother, Anne Waltuck Messinger, for her passion for of music.

A managing partner of Neuberger & Berman LLC since 1973, Messinger has been a member of the Eastman School of Music’s Board of Managers since 1997. He has also been a member of the Eastman School’s National Council since 2008, composed of groups of individuals who seek to “broaden potential sources of support nationally and guide the school’s direction and voice.”

“I am proud to be associated with the Eastman School of Music — one of the world’s premier institutions for music performance, scholarship and entrepreneurship,” Messinger said. “This commitment is just the beginning. It is my hope that others will join us in honoring the Eastman School’s legacy of innovation and artistry through generous funding for its faculty leaders.”

In 2006, Messinger was awarded the Robert Metzdork Award by the Friends of UR Libraries in deep appreciation for his donations. In the same year, he was also awarded the Charles Force Hutchison and Marjorie Smith Hutchison Medal — the highest honor given by the University to an alumnus.

Drawing on his extensive experience in the music world prior to his coming to Eastman — including years spent as both Dean and Professor at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California and at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music — Lowry is an ardent proponent of musical entrepreneurship programs and works to maintain Eastman’s position on the forefront of music education.

“Our vision for the future is to ensure that we can sustain the school’s tradition of excellence in training young musicians, scholars and teachers, but also to ensure that we create a curriculum and an exciting agenda for our students that explores new ways that music is being presented,” Lowry said. He added that, because “students are tuned into how music is going to be created, marketed and performed in the future,” it is essential for Eastman to  seek new strategies for learning and teaching in today’s changing climate.

He has therefore been the major motivator behind the “Empowering the Eastman Advantage” program, which focuses on ethnic, aesthetic, intellectual and strategic diversity in order to “delve into questions of music’s relevance and make music matter.”

Lowry has also been a driving force in the expansion of Eastman’s international relations in China and Europe by encouraging “virtual partnerships” with prestigious institutions worldwide and by hosting international conferences.

“One of Eastman’s brightest accomplishments is its adventuresome spirit of entrepreneurship, its creativity … students are afforded opportunities to explore alternative means for advancing their music, to interact with major players in the field,” Lowry noted.

Lowry, who serves on the board of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and has conducted both the Eastman Philharmonic and the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra, oversaw the largest architectural transformation in Eastman history, completed this past December. The project entailed complete renovation of the Kodak Hall at the Eastman Theatre and the construction of a completely new Eastman East Wing, replete with exceptional performance, rehearsal and teaching spaces.

“Marty and Joan Messinger have built an extraordinary philanthropic legacy at the University,” said University President Joel Seligman. “Their long-standing commitment and generosity have enriched the academic experience for students and faculty. We are particularly grateful for this  gift that emphasizes the Eastman School’s pre-eminent role in music education.”

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