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UNL Announce

Olson gift to enhance UNL vocal music education

A $100,000 gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation by Thomas Olson of Lisco in honor of his wife, Cynthia, creates the Cynthia Olson Vocal Music Education Doctoral Fellowship Endowment at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Music.

The endowed gift will assist in funding an outstanding Ph.D. student in the music education program whose interests align with the teaching and learning of vocal/choral education. The doctoral student recruited to this appointment will be the Cynthia Olson Doctoral Fellow in Vocal Music Education.

The gift of the endowment was announced Dec. 7 at the Chamber Music Singers concert at Sheldon Museum of Art by John W. Richmond, director of the School of Music. It also supports the University of Nebraska Foundation's fundraising initiative, the Campaign for Nebraska: Unlimited Possibilities, and its priority to increase available student aid.

"This endowment will resonate across our profession and make a transformational difference in the ability of the School of Music to recruit world-class doctoral students to our vocal music education program," Richmond said.

A UNL alumnus and Nebraska banking leader, Olson provided this gift in honor of his wife to honor her accomplishments as a musician and teacher. The couple attended the announcement and concert.

Cynthia Olson grew up in Lincoln and graduated from Lincoln High School. She attended the School of Music at NU with a major in music and a passion for voice performance and teaching. She won the audition for the highly coveted role of Nurse Nellie in the NU production of Rodgers' and Hammerstein's musical "South Pacific."

Thomas Olson, a business major and Air Force ROTC student, accepted his officer commission and military appointment to Seward Air Force Base near Nashville, Tenn. The Olsons married at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lincoln 55 years ago this month. Cynthia Olson then moved to Nashville and transferred to the George Peabody College in Nashville, where she graduated two years later and then taught at Smyrna (Tenn.) High School.

Upon the completion of Olson's military obligations, the Olsons returned to Lisco, where he joined his father working at the Lisco State Bank and the Rush Creek Land and Live Stock Co.

Today, he owns the Lisco State Bank and banks in 13 other communities across Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado. He was the 1992 recipient of the University of Nebraska Builder Award, a 1991 University of Nebraska College of Business Administration Business Leadership Award and a 1982 University of Nebraska Alumni Achievement Award.

Cynthia Olson's musical life in Lisco included her performance in the Lisco Trip, her leadership as the song leader for the Synod of the Rocky Mountains (Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.) and many solo appearances across Lisco, Garden County and the entire region.

The UNL School of Music offers a Ph.D. in music with a specialization in music education. The music education curriculum at UNL provides a breadth of learning opportunities that reinforces the rich traditions of school music and supports continuing innovations in the music teaching profession. The program provides students with advanced training, encompassing theoretical knowledge, research skills and practical applications to instructional settings.

Faculty members in the music education area provide expertise in general, vocal and instrumental music education. Additionally, specific faculty research areas include teacher education and professional development, student directed instruction, vocal development and gestural communication, curriculum and assessment, instructional use of technology, history and philosophy of music education, policy and professional ethics, emotion and expressive performance, vernacular musicianship and inclusive music education.

The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization raising private gifts to support the University of Nebraska for more than 75 years. Through gifts to the foundation, donors provided the university with $124 million for scholarships, medical and other research, academic programs, faculty and buildings in 2012. All foundation funds are donor designated. The foundation's comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Campaign for Nebraska, has raised more than $1.2 billion for the university and concludes in 2014. For more information, visit campaignfornebraska.org.