The University of West Florida announced a gift to rename the Department of Music. An anonymous contribution has established the Dr. Grier Williams School of Music in memory of the first chair of the music department.
“This incredibly generous and forward-looking gift will enhance our ability to provide the very best music education for our students,” UWF President Martha D. Saunders said. “I expect great things from the Dr. Grier Williams School of Music.”
The majority of the gift will establish a needs-based scholarship endowment for students in the School of Music and members of the Argo Athletic Band. The remaining funds will allow the school to fulfill its five-year plan and work toward long-term goals of establishing a symphony orchestra, an opera program, a piano series and a graduate program.
“This gift is transformational for our music students,” said Dr. Sheila Dunn, associate professor and chair of the music department. “It will put UWF on the map, creating visibility and recognition for our faculty and students.”
Dunn emphasized the need for higher education opportunities in music to serve talented young musicians in Pensacola and beyond.
“As a Pensacola native, it’s a unique honor to shepherd this incredible gift,” she said. “I know how talented the young musicians are in our area. We have some of the best choral and band programs in the nation right here in the surrounding districts. Young people in our area are immersed in education programs from the Pensacola Opera, Pensacola Symphony, Pensacola Children’s Chorus and other area arts organizations.
“These young musicians are passionate about serious music-making and giving back to the community. I envision this gift drawing students to our program from around the nation and the world, while also having a major impact on those from our local community.”
The UWF music department offers three undergraduate degree programs—Bachelor of Music in Performance, Bachelor of Music Education, and a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Outside Field. The B.A. in Music and Outside Field allows students an opportunity to prepare for employment in a variety of disciplines including music, the humanities, education, health and STEM fields.
Williams founded the UWF music department in 1967 and helped it earn national accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music in 1971. He served as chair of the department for 25 years. For 17 years, he also served as principal conductor of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra. Williams invited local school teacher Susan Pote to assemble a group of children to accompany the orchestra for choral pieces in 1990, which led to the formation of the standalone Pensacola Children’s Chorus. Williams encouraged others to strive for excellence and made immense contributions to the University and community.
“It is an honor and a joy to know that I worked with Dr. Williams as a young singer in the first Pensacola Symphony Children’s Chorus,” Dunn said. “His name evokes fond memories of a great man, musician and leader in everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.”