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Indiana University receives half-million dollar gift for Jacobs School of Music Anniversary Plaza, to be dedicated April 10, and Art Museum

April 8, 2015

Cynthia L. Stewart Simon and William E. Simon Jr.

Cynthia L. Stewart Simon and William E. Simon Jr.

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana University has received a $500,000 gift from Cynthia L. Stewart Simon and William E. Simon Jr. in honor of the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary.

A $400,000 portion of the gift has been used by the Jacobs School of Music to create Anniversary Plaza in front of its East Studio Building. The plaza will be dedicated at 2 p.m. on Friday, April 10, in the lobby of the Musical Arts Center.

Following the ceremony, guests are invited to gather for refreshments in the plaza across the street, at the corner of East Third Street and Jordan Avenue, where features will include a commissioned sculpture by Donald Gummer. Gummer is an alumnus of the Herron School of Art and Design at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the husband of actress Meryl Streep, who received an honorary doctoral degree from IU in April 2014.

"We are deeply indebted to Bill and Cindy Simon for their generous gift, which has made possible this stunning new architectural feature at one of the most important gateways into the Bloomington campus,” said IU President Michael A. McRobbie. "As Anniversary Plaza welcomes countless students, faculty, friends and community members to the campus, it will also serve as a constant reminder of the Simons’ generosity to IU, while the magnificent piece by acclaimed sculptor Don Gummer will be a beautiful addition to our campus."

“We are so grateful to Cindy and Bill for the creation of this gathering space for our campus and our school, and for the sculptural focal point that graces it,” said Jacobs Dean Gwyn Richards. “Don Gummer’s colored glass and brilliant steel will brighten the path of the many who will traverse this gateway, changed by its towering presence and its exuberant form.”

The remaining $100,000 marked the creation of the IU Art Museum’s Cynthia L. and William E. Simon Jr. Art Acquisition Fund. The gift was used to purchase “Bark of the Timber, Fog of the Night” (1995), a relief sculpture by “outsider artist” Thornton Dial.

“Cindy and Bill are visionary philanthropists, and we are deeply grateful to them for reaching out to the IU Art Museum,” said Heidi Gealt, museum director. “Their gift to us combined with their concern about those who are disenfranchised or otherwise challenged, encouraged us to consider ‘outsider art,’ an important vein of creative expression by artists working outside the normal educational or economic spheres.”

Cynthia Simon, who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology degree in 1977 from the IU College of Arts and Sciences, comes from a long line of IU alumni and has always been interested in campus beautification, according to Curt Simic, president emeritus of the IU Foundation.

“Cindy represents generations of commitment to and engagement with IU,” said Simic. “We first met at a retirement party for her grandmother and long-time IU Alumni Association employee, Freeda Stewart. It was obvious from the beginning that Cindy and Bill are philanthropists in the truest sense of the word. They have a very genuine desire—indeed, a commitment—to help others.”

The Simons have a storied tradition of philanthropy at IU and beyond. In 1993, the Glen D. and Dorothy E. Stewart Family Scholarship, in memory of Cynthia Simon’s parents, was established in the IU College of Arts and Sciences Sociology Department. The Dorothy Elizabeth Lowe Stewart Memorial Scholarship at the IU School of Education, in honor of Stewart Simon’s mother, was completed in 2010. In 2011, the Cynthia L. and William E. Simon Jr. Art Acquisition Fund was created at the IU Art Museum. All gifts are administered by the IU Foundation.

Cynthia Simon is the president of the Cynthia L. and William E. Simon Jr. Foundation as well as of the Sound Body Sound Mind Foundation, dedicated to fighting childhood obesity by installing state-of-the-art fitness programs in middle and high schools. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, she co-founded Dollies Making a Difference, which creates and supplies dolls to child victims of natural disasters. Recently, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs students delivered the organization’s dollies to Uganda.

Simon is co-founder of the private equity firm William E. Simon and Sons. He was a candidate for governor of California in 2001 and a candidate for lieutenant governor of California in 2010. His father, William E. Simon Sr., was the 63rd U.S. secretary of the treasury, under presidents Nixon and Ford.

Simic recalled visiting the Simons’ home and seeing their dining room filled with materials to make dolls, and pinpoints on the wall of all the places around the world they had been sent for relief purposes. “It’s not about the money to them,” said Simic. “It’s about relieving anguish and assisting people through hard times. They are philanthropists in so many ways—truly world citizens and altruists concerned with the well-being of humanity.”