David Jacobs's Bicentennial Campaign Speech

Sept. 26, 2015

Bicentennial Campaign Speech

Good evening, and thank you, Pat.  To begin, I’d like everyone to take a minute and mentally stretch, and take a deep breath.  After all, this evening is about celebrating the stretching of boundaries – my own included. It’s an honor to be a part of tonight’s celebration of this truly superlative University and to collectively and collaboratively kick-off our Bicentennial campaign.  And not incidentally, it means a great deal to me personally for this evening to begin with performance by one of our students from the JACOBS School of Music, William Ronning. A big round of applause please, for William.  Thank you, William, you did us all proud.

I’m always so touched when I hear from the diverse and talented students who emerge from IU. I’m reminded of the value of education – a gift that brings us all closer to the fullest realization of our potential. So I’ll share with you a bit of news this evening but first, as Pat said, I was a student in the IU School of Music over 40
years ago.  As I grow older, I am slightly Jurassic these days, it becomes clearer to me that the relationships I made while at Indiana University were not only important, but had a seminal impact on me and my life process. I have realized that IU was a very special place then, and it continues so today, as it is one of the most comprehensive, impressive, and affordable universities in the country. It is unparalleled in its level of dedication - all eight campuses with its 115,000 students. With such recognition, it was also at the IU School of Music that I learned, I seriously needed to change my major.

                Yes, the truth is, being one of the least capable music students then – I dropped out, went to work for a year, and transferred to Southern Methodist graduating with an English degree.  Now some might find it ironic that for the past five decades I’ve nurtured a passionate loyalty for a school that I voluntarily chose to leave.

                Yet, it has always made perfect sense to me because my time at IU was probably the most valuable in my life. This is because of the wisdom, the patience, and the vision of one couple. A man whose singular vision continued and expanded, exponentially, the IU School of Music’s remarkable traditions.  One of Indiana’s Living Legends, Dean Charles Webb, and his open hearted and embracing wife, Kenda McGibbon Webb.  In addition to counting Dean Webb as one of my earliest mentors; I became very close to Charles and Kenda Webb, as well as their 4 sons.

                The word “genius” is tossed around freely, but Charles was an administrative genius and remains today, one of the great collaborative musicians. He demonstrated this miraculous talent of working with tens of thousands of students and hundreds of faculty in his 24 years at the school’s helm. Moreover, he helped each of them stretch to realize their fullest potential. He and Kenda emitted what can only be described as “Grace filled energy.”  While his capacity at working with young students and giving “space” to a romantic ensemble of faculty can never be minimized, he was also an absolute master at building a Music School worthy of legend. He excelled in this COLLABORATION.

                He selected the most talented faculty (the number one task of any dean since faculty attracts quality students).  And Kenda made them all, yes ALL welcome and appreciated.  These working professionals: instrumental divas, opera stars, musicologists, musicians in every genre, stretched their own boundaries and came to Bloomington to share their talent and their real-world knowledge with the students who chose to study with this hand-selected faculty in a place surrounded by the cornfields that was Bloomington.  Even the incomparable Leonard Bernstein, in a dark period of his compositional career, was persuaded by Charles to come to Bloomington to rejuvenate.  In the energy of the Webb family the great maestro rediscovered his mojo and went on to compose an opera to be performed by IU students – at the Metropolitan Opera House/Lincoln Center. No small potatoes from a field of corn, eh?

I could go on and on about the Webbs, but the thing that I’ve observed over the decades is that Charles’ method of teaching, of encouraging, of administrating, of collaborating across all areas is a pure definition of the Indiana University way of doing business.  This is truly about Gratitude.  I am eternally grateful that my parents (both graduates of IU) realized, through the value of my relationship with this remarkable man, his wife, and family, a greater value of Indiana University.

In that recognition, toward the end of my mother’s life on earth, she endowed the JACOBS School of Music.  I explained to her over a scotch and soda, buy the then President of the United States another bomb, or  use the money in an eternally dynamic way - a lasting explosion as it were, educating generations.  Believe me, it was to my delight that she did not choose the military bomb option!  With that, one of my biggest gratitudes is that I’ve been able to build on that support - and the gifts my parents began decades ago.

Now, some of you may not know this, but my parents were also very comfortable in the world of baseball. Through it, I learned over time that a winning team is about more than raw talent.  Of course that talent must be found, must be nurtured, but every year it’s a new season and every year that same level of finding, building, and sustaining greatness must be continued.  Friends, it is my understanding that Humanity is light in its purest form.  Reduced to nano-particularity, below our molecular level, where eminent physicists suggest that it is but “turtles all the way down,” when all is said and done, we are but wavelength.  Radiance.  And what is MUSIC, but ordered wavelength.

                In harmony, and disharmony music has timber and pitch and rhythm, and the power to move people, to lift their souls to a higher dimension. “Drummers beating a tiny time” to quote Wallace Stevens, which we did, and we sang before language was codified.  For 200 years Indiana University has performed a majestic, magnificent symphony of promise - with understanding, inclusion, accomplishment, thoughtfulness, and wisdom.  When has our world needed such gifts more than now?

                As I mentioned earlier, I have been asked to share with you a bit of news this evening of a conversation that began over a year ago. A conversation that developed out of a relationship I’ve come to treasure. Tonight, I share with you that I will be making an additional investment of $20 million to the IU Jacobs School of Music.  I am aware that although this gift may seem large, I am only a small part of a much bigger opportunity.  I cannot do this alone. I need you. Every last one of you in this audience this evening.

                Friends, I am inspired.  I am inspired by the current dean of the Jacobs School, Gwyn Richards, whose thoughtful, care-filled, and collaborative approach, molds our mission’s vision.  And he continues and expands upon Charles’s traditions toward our 2nd century.  I am inspired and gob-smacked that we teach over 80 foreign languages at Indiana University, more than any other university in the world, I believe, and with that communication skillset comes understanding.  I am inspired to stretch my capacities.

                The collaborative relationships I’ve made at IU represent an awesome power. They inspire me to look inwardly and outwardly, to challenge myself, to think of and develop the necessary questions that shape our world.  I realized, through the eyes of a loyal, strong, and kind-hearted man, and his grace-filled wife, that I too was worthy of investment. We all are. In our delicious diversity.  Now is our opportunity, our time, to educate and inspire the next chapter of philanthropists through the mission and vision of this enterprise which we hold dear.  Together we are charged with the task of propelling Indiana University into its next 200 years with strength and momentum.

                In collaboration, we are capable of so much more than we know, so I ask you to join me, like many are doing, Micky Mauer, Bob McKinney, Lowell Baier, Jim Hodge, Cindy Simon-Skojt, Pat Miller, Louise and Yatish Joshi, Gayle and Bill Cook, Nancy and Bill Hunt, and Indiana’s great state benefactor: The Lilly Endowment, to name a few (though there are many others), in whatever way you can and invest in Indiana University. 

                Together we will forecast the brightest future imaginable for IU - with its promise, understanding, inclusion, and wisdom.  Our combined investment will foster and develop such awesome potential.  Of course there is an expense, but as Kelly Clarkson sings, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and what value in the outcomes.

                Together we are a master orchestration, my friends. And I encourage you to sing out, play your finest notes. Whether your passion is in music, the arts, the political science of culture and humanities, applied or theoretical science, business, medicine or law, please join me in sustaining this magnificent composition, yes, its master orchestration, long beyond Indiana University’s next 200 years. 

Thank you.