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Fergusons "Pay it Forward" with Scholarship for Students Who Play Piano or Wind Instrument

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Jill and Bill Ferguson

School of Music alumnus and Schreyer Scholar Bill Ferguson (’99 B.M. Music) has fond memories of his mother playing piano—giving lessons, accompanying choirs, and performing with local groups. When he and his wife, Jill, found themselves in a situation where they could give back to their alma mater and remember his mother, they knew they wanted to help music students. In 2016, they established the Lynne D. Ferguson Memorial Award, which is now being folded into an endowment to create the Lynne D. Ferguson Memorial Scholarship. The Fergusons and Bill’s father, William C. Ferguson, have each pledged $50,000 to establish the scholarship, which will recognize students who have achieved excellence in either piano or wind instrument performance and who have demonstrated financial need. Both gifts will be matched one-to-one as part of the University’s First-Time Endowed Scholarship Matching Program.

Bill, who played saxophone, was active in the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Centre Dimensions, and also spent a year in the Blue Band. Now the owner of a fiber optic network consulting business, he says he wants to “repay” the generous scholarships he received as a student. “Ultimately I hope this will become a full scholarship awarded yearly,” he said.

Bill is grateful for the individualized attention he received as a student from faculty members such as Dan Yoder, who retired as director of jazz studies in 2016, and Dennis Glocke, director of concert bands. “I still remember that feeling you get at the end of a concert, the feeling that you did something meaningful and moving as part of a group. That happened most often for me with the Symphonic Wind Ensemble [directed by Glocke] and Centre Dimensions [directed by Yoder].”

Bill and Jill, who live in Washington, D.C., are both dedicated Penn State alumni who enjoy returning to University Park for football games. Jill, who graduated in 1998 with a degree in hotel, restaurant, and institutional management (HRIM), has been active in the Penn State Hotel and Restaurant Society. Bill said they both wanted to “pay it forward” and liked the idea of creating a scholarship.

“The earlier you start, the sooner you can start making a difference,” Bill said. “Music teachers, art teachers, and other musicians and artists are already giving back in so many ways, so that is why we wanted to give to the College of Arts and Architecture.”

Gifts from Penn State’s alumni and friends have been essential to the success of the University’s land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University has launched “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives of a public university: Private support will keep the doors to higher education open to hard-working students regardless of financial well-being; create transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impact the world by fueling discovery, innovation, and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.