Gifts from CU Alumni Support Biology Dept., Marching Band

For Immediate Release: 
Mar 18 2008

CONTACT: Loretta Young, Executive Director, Concord University Foundation
1-304-384-5257, > Alumni & Donors

Gifts from CU Alumni Support Biology Dept., Marching Band

Athens, W.Va. – Concord University’s biology and music departments have cause to rejoice thanks to generous donors Evelyn Lilly Blake and the Jeanne and Lawson Hamilton Foundation.

Evelyn Lilly Blake a 1942 graduate of Concord College has designated an estate gift of $1.8 million to be used for the biology department. As a biology major, she was impressed by Biology Professor Dr. Meade McNeil. With a voice so strong and spry that no one would guess her age of 87 years, she reminisced about McNeil, “He taught botany; he was a wonderful teacher and instilled in his students a real love for plants; he made it a joy to learn.” This is one reason Ms. Blake owns property near Blacksburg – over 200 acres of pristine land that has not been altered since the 1930s. “It’s full of the things McNeil taught me to love: moss, trees, streams, and wildflowers,” Ms. Blake said. She hopes her gift will enhance the capabilities of Concord’s biology department.

Additionally, she donated $51,000 to the school’s marching band to be used for new uniforms. Blake played the snare drum in the band as a student and explained her reasoning for supporting the band: “I wanted to know who really needed it. In high school, it is easier to get money for these things, but in college, they don’t have band boosters.”

Her husband, Oscar Jennings Blake, who died in 2004, was in agreement that the residue from their estate should go for education at Mrs. Blake’s undergraduate school: Concord University. Her husband was a practicing architectural engineer and professor at Virginia Tech.

Loretta Young, executive director for the Concord University Foundation, suggested supporting the band as a linkage to her interest in music. She described Ms. Blake, currently a resident of Daleville, Va., as “very generous.”

Another gift of $5,000 was given to the marching band by the Jeanne and Lawson Hamilton Foundation. Lawson Hamilton Jr. was the guest speaker at the Fund for Concord dinner held at The Greenbrier in 2005. “He sang ‘It’s a Wonderful World’ with the Concord Commanders jazz ensemble, and he had a ball,” said Young. Mr. Hamilton’s love of music is legendary and plus he had a terrific voice. Mr. Hamilton passed away in December 2007. Ms. Young stated that Concord University is quite fortunate to have the association with the Hamilton family and Mrs. Blake.

Before these gifts, members of the marching band were wearing makeshift uniforms of t-shirts black pants, and black hats. “The Concord University Marching Band will now be an impressive looking band that represents the University proudly in the manner it deserves,” said Dr. Andrew Necessary, director of bands at Concord. “We can now entertain with the complete package: not just audibly, but visually as well.”

Necessary mentioned that the students are very excited about next year’s marching season and are very thankful for the gift. He also said that at each halftime show this fall, the band will perform Ms. Blake’s favorite song, “Dull Razor Blues,” from her marching band days at Shady Spring High School in Beaver. She said it was one of her favorites because of all the instrumental solos, “and it had a great drum solo, too,” the former drummer remarked. She learned the song while in the marching band at Shady Spring High School in Beaver.


PHOTO: Select members of the 2007-2008 marching band model the new uniforms which will be worn at upcoming performances. The uniforms are mostly maroon with a touch of gray under a curved, buttoned front closure. The jackets have mandarin collars. The hats feature white plumes with subtle silver threads for added sparkle. Band members will wear black shoes and black gloves to complement their ensemble. The uniforms were chosen with input from students and alumni.

PHOTO: Mrs. Blake, in the 1940s, playing the snare drum as a member of the Concord marching band.

PHOTO: Mrs. Blake

Corrie McKee a senior majoring in English and journalism wrote this news release. Her hometown is Nitro, W.Va.