Kansas University music professor James Higdon has made history.
Higdon is the first Dane and Polly Bales Teaching Professor in Organ, a professorship established with a $500,000 gift to the Kansas University Endowment Association from Logan residents Dane and Polly Bales.
"It's a great honor," Higdon, director of the division of organ and church music, said. "It makes me feel even more dedicated to what I do and (gives me) a more clearly defined resolve to finish what we have started."
Interest earned on the gift is eligible for matching support by the state through the Kansas Partnership for Faculty of Distinction program, established last year by the Kansas Legislature.
Vickie Hamilton-Smith, director of communications for the School of Fine Arts, said the professorship is the first endowed chair for the university's music and dance department and only the second endowed chair in the School of Fine Arts.
The School of Fine Arts' first endowed chair was established in the art and design department.
Higdon, who has a doctoral degree in musical arts from the Eastman School of Music and received KU's William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence in 1997, said the professorship will help the university's music department "for many years to come, and certainly pass my years here."
The professorship also will attract more high-caliber students and instructors, he added.
The Baleses are long-time supporters of KU. Polly Bales, who studied organ at KU in 1940, serves as trustee for the Kansas University Endowment Association and as president-elect of the School of Fine Arts Advisory Board.
Dane Bales graduated from KU in 1941 with a bachelor's degree in business. He serves as trustee of the Dane G. Hansen Foundation, which awards scholarships to Kansas students at KU and other Kansas educational institutions. He serves on the KU School of Business Board of Advisers and is a member of the Williams Educational Fund for Intercollegiate Athletics. His support of the arts has allowed KU exhibits to travel to Logan for display in the Dane G. Hansen Museum.
The Baleses financed the purchase of the pipe organ in the Bales Recital Hall and, along with the Dane G. Hansen Foundation, provided the money to build the recital hall. Additionally, a bequest they have established will eventually pay for programming and maintenance of the recital hall and fund research at the KU Medical Center.