Earlier this month, UR announced the largest-ever endowed gift for the Humanities from alum Arthur Satz ‘51.

Satz, who passed away two years ago at 89 years old, left the gift through his estate. According to Senior Associate Vice President of Advancement Jack Kreckel, large estates often take at least a year to sort out, hence the delay between the endowment and the announcement 

The River Campus’ Department of Music will be renamed in his honor — making it the first named department at the University. Satz started his academic career as a music student on River campus. The gift will also endow at least five professorships. Honey Meconi, a professor both at Eastman and on River Campus, received the first of these appointments, becoming the Arthur Satz Professor for the Department of Music. 

Meconi was informed of her appointment just days before it was announced. “These professorships are a double honor — it’s a tremendous honor to receive one, but more importantly, the professorship honors the generosity of the donor and his connection to the University,” she said.

Kreckel said that the gift was a culmination of a relationship with the University that spanned about 20 years. During that time, Satz had been attending University events, giving small gifts, and building relationships with various advancement workers and faculty. While he was alive, he made a commitment to a large gift to the Music Department’s endowment.

“Philanthropy at its best is a partnership,” Kreckel said. Kreckel pointed out that most of the biggest donors — George Eastman, Joseph C. Wilson, Robert Goergen — start with small gifts during their lifetime, before giving their major gift after decades of engagement with the University. For many, that “ultimate” gift comes through an estate. “In my experience, it’s the most personal way of giving.”

Kreckel said that Satz had let the University know of his Music department endowment, and was therefore involved in the decision to rename the department. But the larger gift to fund professorships throughout the Humanities came as a pleasant surprise to the University. 

In his life, Satz was a professor at a variety of schools, and eventually became the president of the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID). David Sproulls, the current president of NYSID, noted that Satz endowed a lecture series there. In 1995, the campus’ midtown-Manhattan auditorium was named in honor of his work as President.

“His tenure was distinguished by a greatly expanded curriculum, many additions to the faculty and administrative staff, and a doubling of the institution’s Midtown Manhattan space,” Sproulls said. “Under his leadership, NYSID was approved to offer both the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and the Associate in Applied Science degree, transforming the school from a certificate- and diploma-granting institution to a full-fledged college.” 

Satz’s college career began in 1946. While Satz was an undergraduate, it was still an all-male institution. His college application asks for his father’s occupation and business address, but for his mother, it only asks for “occupation if any, past or present.” His college essay was hand-written in cursive. The final question before the essay asks for the list of newspapers and magazines he reads regularly.

During his time at the University, he majored in Music. He was also the accompanist for the Glee Club. His application to the University states that after college, he intended to “enter the field of music,” which he later fulfilled through his professorships. 

At UR, Satz was heavily involved. He was a member of The Campus, the Campus Times’ predecessor from the all-male University. 

Satz was in Theta Chi and Hillel, and also took part in theatre. He was a cast member in a musical called “Make it Fast” through the Quilting Club, a drama society, and a member of two other drama societies, “Prologue” and “The Stagers.”

Many current and past faculty and staff at the University noted his dedication to the humanities and love of music. Meconi recalled a story of a dinner with Satz and her colleagues, after which they entertained each other by performing what they study. Meconi sang a song in medieval Latin composed by a 12th-century nun. “Certainly not one’s usual entertainment!” Meconi said.

I was only able to meet him once, but I remember how gracious and thoughtful he was,” Matthew BaileyShea, chair of the Music department, said. “He had read an article that I had written about the music of Gustav Mahler and said some kind words about it. It’s clear that his education at the University […] had a profound impact.” BaileyShea added that the gift will allow the department to expand and have “an even brighter spotlight” on it.

“There are stories like Arthur Satz all over campus,” Kreckel said. “Maybe a few [students and alumni] will come to appreciate those who came before them [..] so we could all enjoy what’s here today.”

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