Back to all news stories

Performing Arts

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

By Marilou Carlin

William and Delores Brehm's gift propels SMTD beyond its Victors for Michigan campaign goal of $90 million. Photo by Mark Mastropietro.

The School of Music, Theatre & Dance has received a $5 million gift from dedicated U-M benefactors William K. and Delores S. Brehm in support of scholarships honoring Christopher Kendall, who served as the school’s dean from 2005-15.

The William K. and Delores S. Brehm Scholarship Fund honoring Christopher Kendall is one of several gifts that the Brehms have made to SMTD in recent years. They include:

• $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 Moore Building’s new William K. and Delores S. Brehm Pavilion.

• $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 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 SMTD Dean Aaron Dworkin.

“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 deeply 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 worked so diligently on this campaign,” Dworkin said.

“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 and the University of Michigan’s Campaign Steering 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.

From left are Delores Brehm, Susan Schilperoort, William Brehm and Christopher Kendall. Photo by Peter Smith.

Bill Brehm, who received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from U-M, and his wife 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 Brehm’s brother.

• Additionally, they created the Brehm Scholars program for graduates of the Fordson High School in Dearborn (Bill Brehm’s alma mater), which supports students with full tuition scholarships.

Bill Brehm majored in mathematics and physics when he attended U-M in the late 1940s and 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 Corp. 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 Bill Brehms’ life, and he credits it with introducing him to his wife.

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 the Michigan Men’s Glee Club recently premiered during the multimedia celebration “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.

Currently professor of music at SMTD and a special adviser to the university’s Bicentennial Office, Christopher Kendall was dean of SMTD for two terms, from 2005-15.

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; reinstituting 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 from 1996-2005, during a time of remarkable growth in the school’s stature. Previously, he was director of the Music Division and Tanglewood Institute of the Boston University School of the Arts from 1993-96.

Associate conductor of the Seattle Symphony from 1987-92, 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 which he has performed, toured nationally, and recorded regularly as lutenist and conductor.

Continue Reading