SMTD receives $5 million scholarship gift from William and Delores Brehm

Dolores Brehm, Susan Schilperoort, Bill Brehm, Christopher Kendall, at signing of agreement for Moore renovation gift in 2012 (photo: Peter Smith)

The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) has received a gift of $5 million in support of scholarships from dedicated U-M benefactors William K. and Delores S. Brehm in honor of Christopher Kendall, former dean of SMTD, who served from 2005-2015.

This William K. and Delores S. Brehm Scholarship Fund honoring Christopher Kendall is one of several that the Brehms have made to SMTD in recent years, including $10 million to launch the $29.5 million expansion and renovation of the Earl V. Moore Building; $3 million to provide for a Music Technology Innovation Suite, housed in the building’s new William K. and Delores S. Brehm Pavilion; and $1 million to purchase pianos for practice rooms, rehearsal halls, and recital venues.

Scholarship support is critical to SMTD’s mission of enrolling the most deserving students, regardless of economic circumstances, and allowing them to launch their careers without the burden of excessive student loan debt. Scholarships also help the school to compete with peer institutions to recruit the most gifted students in all disciplines, in order to reach the highest levels of artistic and scholastic achievement through collaborative performance and research.

“We are so grateful to Bill and Dee Brehm for this extraordinary gift, which will allow many students, for years to come, to make Michigan their first choice,” said Aaron Dworkin, dean of SMTD. “The Brehms are so beloved by everyone at SMTD, for their tremendous generosity, of course, but also for simply being such kind, caring, and wonderful people. Their deep felt interest in our students, and true love of the performing arts and its future, has resulted in gifts that are transformative and inspirational.”

The Brehms’ gift propels SMTD beyond its Victors for Michigan campaign goal of $90 million. “This milestone is all the more meaningful in that it was made possible by donors who have already had such a major impact on our school and in that they chose to honor my predecessor, Christopher Kendall, who did so much work on this campaign,” said Dworkin. “The Brehms and our many other donors have brilliantly exceeded our expectations for the campaign. We want and need to honor this incredible moment, though the effort to support as many students as possible continues, and there is still much work to be done.”

The Brehms are members of SMTD’s Victors for Michigan Campaign Advisory Committee. During the course of the campaign, and through the development and building of the Brehm Pavilion, they became very close with Kendall and his wife, Susan Schilperoort, an ordained Presbyterian minister, who played a number of significant volunteer roles for the School during Kendall’s tenure as dean.

William and Delores Brehm

Bill (BS ’50, MS ’52) and Dee Brehm began their philanthropic relationship with SMTD in 2011 with a three-prong gift to support choral music, for which Bill Brehm has a particular affinity. The gift created the Brehm Fellowship, to support a master’s student in choral conducting; the Brehm Prize in Choral Composition to encourage the composition of choral works by SMTD students; and the Brehm Commission to support the commissioning of new choral works from established composers and premiered by SMTD choirs. In 2016 they made yet another gift to establish the Brehm Prize in Instrumental Composition for SMTD students.

The Brehms have a long history of commitment to U-M, providing broad support for eight areas and donating more than $70 million to support a range of projects and programs. Among these are the eight-story 230,000-square foot addition (Brehm Tower) to the Kellogg Eye Center and the founding of the Brehm Center for Diabetes Research & Analysis; the William K. and Delores S. Brehm Professorship in Type I Diabetes Research and the Larry D. Soderquist Professorship in honor of Dee’s brother. Additionally, they created the Brehm Scholars program for graduates of the Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan (Bill’s alma mater), which supports students with full tuition scholarships. The program was documented in a U-M video.

Bill majored in mathematics and physics when he attended U-M in the late 1940s/early 1950s, graduating with honors in mathematics. He began his career in advanced engineering in the aerospace industry. In the late 1960s, he served as assistant secretary of the Army, and, in the 1970s, as assistant secretary of defense in the Ford Administration. He is co-founder and former executive chair of SRA International, Inc., a technology and strategic consulting firm. He has also served as a director of the Herman Miller Corporation of Michigan; as board chair for the Center for Naval Analyses, a non-profit institution that conducts high-level research and analysis to inform the important work of public sector decision makers; and as board chair for Fuller Theological Seminary where the Brehms have created the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, & the Arts.

Also a pianist and composer, music has played a major role in the Bill’s’ life, and he credits it with introducing him to Dee. He has a special affinity for choral works, and in the 1970s began writing songs for his church, ultimately composing 35 hymns, many of which were translated into German. More recently, he composed a work to celebrate the 2015 opening of the renovated and enlarged Moore Building, and a new choral work, written for U-M’s bicentennial, which was premiered by the Michigan Men’s Glee Club at the April 8 multimedia celebration at Hill Auditorium, “True Blue! A Tribute to Michigan.”

Dee Brehm is a 1952 graduate of Eastern Michigan University; she concentrated in special education and taught in that field in California. She is now an advocate and leading philanthropist in special education, and has created a special education, full-tuition scholarship program at EMU under which 10 students per year are paired with a faculty member to perform a defined research project. The Brehms have contributed more than $4-million to EMU for special education.

Christopher Kendall

Currently professor of music at SMTD and special advisor to the university’s Bicentennial Office, Christopher Kendall was dean of SMTD for two terms, from 2005-2015. During his tenure, he was instrumental in establishing important initiatives such as the U-M Gershwin critical edition project and the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti El Sistema program; re-instituting major ensemble and international touring; encouraging the development of chamber music; securing the funding for and leading the design process for the expansion and renovation of the Earl V. Moore building; and successfully launching an ambitious fundraising campaign focused on building scholarship resources for SMTD students. As dean, he also helped initiate U-M’s Arts Engine and the national Alliance for the Arts at Research Universities.

Before joining SMTD, Kendall was director of the University of Maryland School of Music (1996-2005), during a time of remarkable growth in the school’s stature, and, previously, director of the Music Division and Tanglewood Institute of the Boston University School of the Arts (1993-96).

Associate conductor of the Seattle Symphony from 1987-1992, Kendall is the conductor and artistic director of the Emmy Award- winning 21st Century Consort, the ensemble-in-residence at the Smithsonian Institution. He is also founder of the Folger Consort, the early music-in-residence ensemble at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C., with whom he has performed, toured nationally, and recorded regularly as lutenist and conductor.