Gift something to sing about

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Alumnus Tom Olson surprised his wife, Cynthia, by creating the Cynthia Olson Vocal Music Education Doctoral Fellowship at UNL.

Right before the holidays, alumnus Tom Olson surprised his wife, Cynthia, by creating the Cynthia Olson Vocal Music Education Doctoral Fellowship at UNL.

The gift creates a permanent endowment to provide annual tuition assistance to outstanding students in the doctoral music education program who are interested in careers in vocal and choral education.

Tom Olson said he wanted to make this special gift to honor Cynthia’s lifelong accomplishments as a musician and teacher.

Cynthia grew up in Lincoln and graduated from Lincoln High. She attended the School of Music at UNL with a major in music and a passion for voice performance and teaching. While at the university, she won the audition for the highly coveted role of Nurse Nellie in the production of Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s musical South Pacific.

Tom was a business major and Air Force ROTC student. He accepted a military appointment after graduation at Seward Air Force Base near Nashville, Tenn.

The Olsons married 55 years ago at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lincoln. Cynthia transferred her studies to the George Peabody College in Nashville, where she graduated and then taught at Smyrna (Tenn.) High School.

When Tom’s military service ended, the Olsons returned to Lisco, Neb., where he joined his father working at the Lisco State Bank and the Rush Creek Land and Live Stock Company.

Today, Olson owns the Lisco State Bank, as well as banks in 13 other communities across Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado. He was the 1992 recipient of the University of Nebraska Builder Award, a 1991 University of Nebraska College of Business Administration Business Leadership Award and a 1982 University of Nebraska Alumni Achievement Award.

Cynthia’s musical life in Lisco included her performance in the Lisco Trip, her leadership as the song leader for the Synod of the Rocky Mountains (Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.) and many solo appearances across Lisco, Garden County and the entire region.

The Olsons have enjoyed supporting the University of Nebraska for more than 50 years, including support for the UNL College of Business Administration, Nebraska Student Life Complex, University of Nebraska Alumni Association and more.

John Richmond, director of the school of music, heralded the gift during the university’s Chamber Music Singers’ holiday concert.

“This endowment will resonate across our profession,” he said, “and make a transformational difference in the ability of the School of Music to recruit world-class doctoral students to our vocal music education program.”

Student support is one of the top priorities of the Campaign for Nebraska. If you, like the Olsons, would like to help students achieve their dreams, please consider giving online or contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.

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