Gift benefits fine arts at UNI

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Music and theatre students and programs at the University of Northern Iowa will benefit from a gift from alumni Howard C. and Mary Easter.

Howard, who died in September 2011 at the age of 94, and Mary who died in September 2014 at the age of 95, named UNI as the beneficiary of the remainder of their trust. The bequest will total nearly $1 million to be distributed equally between the UNI School of Music and the UNI Department of Theatre.

John Vallentine, director of the UNI School of Music said the Easter's gift will allow the school to continue to strengthen its reputation by supporting UNI students in their performances at the university, throughout the United States and abroad. "The Easters have made a transformational gift to the university," said Vallentine. "The funds will be placed into an endowment that will support scholarships, purchase equipment (such as pianos) and meet programmatic needs for future generations of students.  We are grateful for the generosity of Howard and Mary Easter."

Eric Lange, head of the Department of Theatre, stated that this funding will have a significant impact on departmental programming and will benefit new groups of students into the future. "This funding will support the hiring of professional guest artists who will share current practice with our students, will help support enhancements to our production resources, and will also help support student travel to see professional theatre or attend discipline-specific conferences. The Easters' generosity is very much appreciated."

The funds perpetuate the Easters' passion for the performing arts. Mary taught English in Illinois and Iowa. Howard taught band and played jazz piano in the Howy Curtis Trio Band. They are both graduates of Iowa State Teachers College, now University of Northern Iowa.

The Easter gift will be managed by the UNI Foundation. The mission of the Foundation is to support the University of Northern Iowa by leveraging private and public resources through strategic engagement of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. For more information about the UNI Foundation, visit



Eric Lange, department head, UNI Theatre, 319-273-6833,

John Vallentine, director, School of Music, 319-273-2024,

Lindsay Cunningham, Office of University Relations, 319-273-6728,