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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI’s chair of Music Department & his family
orchestrate an endowment to benefit students
Gift reimburses University for sons’ tuition waivers

KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 27, 2001 -- Professionally Ronald Lee of Kingston, chair of the University of Rhode Island’s Music Department, thinks his department really knows the score.

He has an even more personal reason for appreciating the high quality and professionalism of its faculty and staff. Two of his sons, Jon and Chris, are URI graduates who were heavily involved in the music program as undergraduates. Because Lee is a University employee, neither son was charged tuition.

To show their gratitude, Lee and his extended family recently established the Lee Family Scholarship at URI. The endowed fund will provide scholarships for both music majors and non-majors.

"Our goal is to give back to the University, and the State of Rhode Island, an amount equal to the tuition waivers given for Chris and Jon’s education. We plan to donate $25,000 and expect to go beyond that, "said Lee, who accepted the job as chair of URI’s Music Department in 1992.

Dr. Winifred Brownell, dean of URI’s College of Arts and Sciences, enthusiastically praised the Lees’ decision to establish the scholarship fund. She said: "We deeply appreciate this generous endowment and especially value that Dr. Lee and his family want to express their gratitude for the excellent education and the tuition waivers that their sons received at URI to benefit future generations of students. Ron Lee has set an important example that will help us to attract, support, and retain outstanding students. I anticipate that many others will be inspired by his philanthropy, and the many exemplary students who urgently need financial support to continue their education at URI will be the beneficiaries of their generosity." The Music Department is within the college.

In addition to Lee and his wife Marie Bender-Lee, contributors to the fund include Lee’s mother Eleanor, sons Jon and Chris, and sister Karolyn Lee, as well as memorial gifts donated in his father’s (Rudolph T.) name.

"We needed to give back," said Lee. "Both Jon and Chris have done well because of the high quality education they received here at URI."

Scholarship selection will be based on students’ commitment to music study, growing musical talent, and a strong academic record. Preference will be given to students whose principal area of study is composition, piano, saxophone, or voice, areas that have a special meaning to family members.

Jon, a non-music major, played alto saxophone and was active in the wind ensemble at URI. He used his musical experiences toward earning a master’s degree in anthropology at Binghamton University in New York, often writing about how popular music and jazz affect our lives.

Chris earned double bachelors degrees in education and composition in 1999. His instrument is the piano. He was accepted into several graduate music composition programs, deciding on Yale University because of its excellent program and its full scholarship offer.
Marie Bender-Lee sings in the Westerly Chorus, the University Chorus, and is a cantor and soloist at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Kingston. "Singing is part of who I am," said the former elementary music teacher.

Ron Lee used to play the clarinet. "If I ever pull it out to play, the pads would be missing," joked the Minnesota native.

Being chair of URI’s Music Department provides enough to keep him in tune. "I feel like I’m a conductor. I like to think that I’m leading our students and faculty to focus on their interests and talents," he said.

Lee noted that between 35 to 40 percent of the incoming URI freshmen class of 2,300 indicated on their application forms that they were involved in high school music instruction. Many of these students want to continue studying music in some manner even though they are not music majors. All together, the department sees about 2,400 students annually in music classes and ensembles.

Lee hopes his family’s scholarship inspires others on campus. "It would be kind of nice to have the University be the beneficiary of more scholarship philanthropy. Goodness knows the University could use it."

Anyone needing information about establishing a named scholarship should contact Thomas Zorabedian, senior development officer for the College of Arts & Sciences at 874-2853.

For Information: Jan Sawyer, 874-2116

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