LAWRENCE -- To the hundreds of University of Kansas music students they have welcomed into their home, Dave and Gunda Hiebert are like Mom and Dad - just closer to campus.
The Hieberts listen when students need someone to talk to. They enthusiastically open their house for recitals and push students to perform their best. They offer home-cooked meals alongside heaping servings of praise and encouragement.
And like other parents, the couple provides financial support for those students. The Hieberts recently pledged $410,000 to the Kansas University Endowment Association for the School of Fine Arts Department of Music and Dance and the Spencer Museum of Art. The pledge brings the couple's total commitments to over $1 million, including $770,000 for KU First: Invest in Excellence, the third and largest fund-raising campaign for KU.
Of their most recent gift, $250,000 is designated for the David and Gunda Hiebert Piano Fund, which supports scholarships for piano students, special projects and travel for students and faculty members. Another $100,000 is for the couple's unrestricted piano division endowed fund. The Hieberts' pledge also provides $10,000 for the Gunda Hiebert Dance Scholarship and $50,000 for the Spencer Museum, including $20,000 for the Andrew W. Mellon Challenge Grant.
Jack Winerock, KU professor of piano, said the Hieberts have adopted the entire piano program.
"Their financial support has turned a good program into an exceptional one, and that wouldn't be possible without them," he said. "In addition, they are friends, mentors and surrogate parents to students. They are concerned with how faculty members are performing professionally."
Their interaction with students and faculty members has made the couple's philanthropy much more personal, Gunda said.
"It's such an opportunity to be involved," she said. "Sometimes the students will come over and talk about problems with us. It's like we are their parents, but non-judgmental."
The Hieberts are perhaps most well known in Lawrence for the recitals and concerts they host in their home near campus. Since 1996, the couple has provided their living room and the use of their Steinway B grand piano for more than 200 student and faculty recitals. The Hieberts invite up to 25 community members, students and other members of the department to every performance.
The recitals provide an intimate venue for students and professors who don't often get the opportunity to play for the public. They also offer dress rehearsals for students preparing for concerts and competitions, Dave said. As word has spread, the concerts have grown beyond piano to strings, woodwinds, brass and voice, and now include entire ensembles.
Melanie Hadley, a KU junior majoring in piano who has performed several times in the Hiebert home, said their house provides a unique experience for performers and listeners alike.
"The Hieberts know that music isn't meant to be confined to a concert hall," she said. "It can be performed on a Tuesday night in a house in front of 25 people and be just as meaningful and impressive as a performance in Carnegie Hall. There's an attentive audience that wants to hang on every single note Ð they want to experience it with you."
Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery, a pianist, has also performed in the Hieberts' home.
"Dave and Gunda are true friends of the Department of Music and Dance," Montgomery said. "Their financial support of the piano division has enabled faculty to recruit and retain many talented and
promising students. The School of Fine Arts is greatly appreciative of and indebted to Dave and Gunda Hiebert."
Dave said it doesn't take financial commitments as great as theirs to adopt a program.
"I say to other donors that they should find out what they are interested in at KU," Dave said. "Then ask, what does the program need? How can you help?"
Gunda added, "You can have an enriching experience with any student you sponsor. It doesn't take a major gift. Even giving them your time can have an impact."
Now retired, Dave, medicine '61, was a physician for KU Athletics for 17 years and a radiologist at Lawrence Memorial Hospital from 1967 until 1990. He is a member of the Spencer Museum of Art Advisory Board, the Friends of the Lied Board and the Fine Arts Campaign Committee for KU First.
Gunda co-owned the Bay Leaf, a downtown gourmet store, from 1978 until 2002 when she sold her interest in the business and retired. She has attended classes at KU and holds a master's degree in French from Yale and from the University of Virginia.
There are four children in the Hiebert family. Dave has three daughters: Kimberly Hiebert Purvis, pharmacy '85; Megan Hiebert, personnel administration '91, and Laura Hiebert Carbrey, who attended KU in 1987. Gunda has a son, Timothy Freeman, who earned a bachelor's degree in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia.
KU Endowment is conducting KU First on behalf of KU through 2004 to raise funds for scholarships, fellowships, professorships, capital projects and program support. KU Endowment is an independent, non-profit organization serving as the official fund-raising and fund-management organization for KU.
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