Who Says You Have to Graduate? The Story of a Big Music Gift at a Midwestern School

David Henry Jacobs Jr. recently gave a $20 million gift to Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music to endow a deanship, and to support faculty salaries, research, scholarships, student travel, and the library. 

Before we go any further I should mention that big gifts for the arts on campuses aren’t nearly as common as, say, gifts for medical research. However, if you’ve been reading IP for a while now, you know such gifts do come along episodically, and that we like to flag these kinds of arts gifts for the lessons that they contain.

One lesson we often talk about is how some of these big arts gifts build upon previous gifts. For instance, I recently wrote about a large $28 million pledge by Jerome and Simona Chazen to University of Wisconsin, which built upon years of commitment by the couple. In fact, University of Wisconsin is home to the Chazen Museum of Art.

Related: Campus Donors Who Give Big For Art—What Makes Them Tick?

In Jacobs' case, we have similarly strong ties. Back in 2005, Indiana University School of Music was renamed in honor of his parents after his mother, Barbara, gave the school $40.6 million. Additionally, Jacobs has been heavily involved with Indiana University over the years. He's been a member of the IU Foundation's board of directors since 2006, and is a founding member of the Women's Philanthropy Leadership Council.

Jacobs has also funded several programs at Indiana, including the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the IU Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Alumni Association, the Maurer School of Law and the Kinsey Institute. In addition, many members of Jacobs' family attended or graduated from Indiana University, as well.

Despite all of this philanthropy and involvement at Indiana University, though, we should probably mention the most interesting part about this story. Jacobs, while he attended then-named Indiana University School of Music in the early 1970s, is actually a graduate of Southern Methodist University.


However, here, we come to another lesson that development offices should keep in mind. While he was a music student at Indiana University, Jacobs developed a friendship with Charles Webb and his family. Webb joined Indiana as an instructor in piano in 1958, became dean in 1973, and is currently emeritus dean. To give an idea of the relationship Webb had with the Jacobs family, a 1998 gift by Barbara established the Dean Charles H. Webb Chair in Music.

We've been struck before by the role of friendships between faculty and students that later help fuel major giving. 

It's safe to say that Webb was an important piece of the puzzle that kept Jacobs involved with Indiana University over the years. Indeed, when Barbara give her $40.6 million gift back in 2005, Jacobs said, "As a former student of Indiana University School of Music, I have observed many great triumphs of the school over the past 30 years. I hope that my mother's gift will ensure that the excellence for which the school is known will continue long into the future." Even though Jacobs didn't graduate from the school, his days at the school clearly left a lasting impression.

Finally, we should mention that Jacobs is president of David Jacobs Fine Art, which matches private art collections with public institutions, and StillLife Construction, which redevelops historic properties.