CONTACT: DAVID DIERKS
Assistant Vice President, Principal Gifts
UI Foundation News
500 Levitt Center for University Advancement
Iowa City IA 52242
Phone: (319) 335-3305 or (800) 648-6973
Release: April 27, 2000
Marshalltown woman's $1 million bequest supports UI opera program
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A $1 million gift from the estate of Martha Ellen Tye,
a Marshalltown, Iowa, philanthropist, will raise the curtain on new opportunities
for students and faculty who are studying, performing and teaching opera at
the University of Iowa. Tye was a major supporter of the performing arts programs
at the UI, Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and the
Marshalltown public schools. Before her death in May 1998, Tye worked with
University of Iowa Foundation staff to establish a bequest for the UI opera
"This is the largest and most significant gift in the history of the
UI School of Music," said David Nelson, director of the UI School of
Music. He announced the gift in conjunction with the UI Opera Theater's opening
performance of "Hansel and Gretel," to take place on Friday, April
28. "I visited with Martha Ellen Tye numerous times over the years, and
I was always impressed with her enthusiasm for the arts and desire to share
her love of opera. This gift will help ensure that opera continues to be a
prominent force in our region's flourishing cultural scene." The gift
will support faculty, production, and other costs associated with the UI opera
"Hansel and Gretel," Engelbert Humperdinck's popular fairy tale
opera, appeals to people of all ages and will be performed at Hancher Auditorium
April 28 and 30. UI students in music, theater and dance perform in the annual
opera, which is open to the public. In addition, students from Willowwind
School in Iowa City will perform in a children's chorus in the story.
Martha Ellen Tye was a Marshalltown, Iowa, native who traveled extensively
with her parents, Jasper Henry Fisher and Florence Baughman Fisher, and developed
a life-long passion for the arts. In 1955 she married Joe B. Tye, a 1923 Iowa
Law School graduate. Over the years, the Tyes contributed more than $2.3 million
to the UI Foundation in support of the College of Law, Hancher Auditorium,
the School of Music, the Museum of Natural History, the UI Museum of Art and
other areas of the university.
After Joe Tye's death in 1974, his wife established a UI law student scholarship
in his memory. Martha Ellen Tye was active in numerous civic organizations
and was the first woman member of the Marshalltown Rotary Club. A member of
the UI Foundation Board of Directors, she also served on the Iowa Law School
Foundation board, was a University of Northern Iowa trustee and was involved
with Marshalltown Community College. She was also a patron of the Chicago
Lyric Opera, the New York Metropolitan Opera and Old Creamery Theater in Garrison,
"This gift is a wonderful way to start my career at the University
of Iowa and to build momentum for opera," said Sally Stunkel, associate
professor in the School of Music, who joined the faculty last fall. Her position
as director of the UI Opera Theater will receive support from the Tye gift.
Professor Stunkel, who has directed more than 70 stage productions during
her career, chose the fairy tale as her first full-scale opera production
at Iowa. She has served on the faculties at the University of the Pacific,
the University of Tennessee and the St. Louis Conservatory of Music.
"Opera is part of our curriculum," said Stunkel. "The performance
of 'Hansel and Gretel' represents the culmination of months of intensive study
and rehearsal for students, faculty, and technical staff. It's a familiar
story with magical creatures and beautiful music."
"Hansel and Gretel" will give UI students the opportunity to perform
in a production of professional caliber. William LaRue Jones will conduct
the UI Symphony Orchestra; set design is by Margaret Wenk of the UI Performing
Arts Production Unit; and production manager David Thayer, emeritus professor
in the UI Department of Theatre, will supervise the highly skilled staff who
build the scenery and create costumes for this and all UI stage productions.
David Nelson said the annual production of an opera is a creative, logistical
and financial challenge. "Martha Ellen Tye's generosity will inspire
even more collaboration among dozens of our outstanding performing arts students,
faculty and staff," said Nelson.
The University of Iowa Foundation will manage the Martha Ellen Tye Opera
Program Fund, providing a perpetual and expanding resource to support the
activities of students and faculty in their study and performance of opera.
The University of Iowa Foundation is the preferred channel for private contributions
to all areas of the university. Foundation staff work with alumni and friends
to generate funds for scholarships, professorships, facilities improvements,
research funds and other UI initiatives.