Jan 15, 2009    #006
Contact: Laura Byerley

Lorraine Watson Estate Benefits UMKC ConservatoryLong-time arts supporter’s gift valued at more than $887,000

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) is pleased to acknowledge an estate gift benefiting student scholarships at the Conservatory of Music and Dance. Valued at more than $887,000, the gift is from Lorraine Watson – a long-time Conservatory supporter who died on Oct. 29, just shy of her 100th birthday. The endowment established by this gift will provide about $24,000 annually for much-needed scholarship support.

Watson developed an appreciation for music and theater during her childhood in Emporia, Kan., when Broadway troupes traveling by railroad stopped to perform. Believing education was one of the most important things in life, she went on to attend the Kansas State Teachers College and the College of Emporia. As a teacher, she earned $1,000 per year – but saved a small amount each month. Eventually, she and her first husband moved to Kansas City where she enjoyed the dynamic music and arts scene. After her husband died in World War II, she changed paths and enjoyed a successful career at Nabisco as one of the company’s first female salespersons. As a top performer, she quickly earned the respect of her male colleagues. Later, she married businessman Orville Watson, her husband of 34 years until his death.

Watson often commented that she was blessed with success so that she could be a blessing to others. She established the Lorraine Watson Piano Scholarship Fund at UMKC in 1995 to show her support and love for education and music. Her scholarship has benefited several students over the years, who have given back to Watson and others with recitals at the retirement community where she lived.

Shoko Hino, a former Lorraine Watson scholarship recipient, remembers performing a piano recital for Watson’s birthday each year at the retirement community.

“After each recital, I was deeply moved to see tears flowing down her face, which was always accompanied by her loving words, ‘You are so talented. I'm so proud of you.’ Performing for Mrs. Watson was an incredibly rewarding and moving experience,” said Hino, who graduated from the Conservatory in 2003 with a Master of Music in Piano Performance. “Visiting her more regularly gave me the chance to get to know her on a personal level. Hearing her fascinating life stories was truly inspiring. She became someone much more than my sponsor, but a wonderful friend.”

Indeed, Watson had a sincere commitment to the Conservatory and students, said Peter Witte, dean of the Conservatory.

“Mrs. Watson knew first-hand those moments every teacher treasures – seeing students light up, seeing them grow,” Witte said. “Through her gift – the result of years of honorable and joyful work – the Conservatory will provide many such moments to future students.”

Watson was a charter member of the Robert F. Flarsheim Society, which recognizes UMKC’s alumni and friends who have included a gift provision to the University in their estate plans.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Celebrating 75 years, UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience.

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This information is available to people with speech or hearing impairments by calling Relay Missouri at (800) 735-2966 (TT) or (800) 735-2466 (voice).


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