$5 million gift endows deanship at School of Music and Dance

April 2, 2019 - 5:00am

Prominent University of Oregon alumni Phyllis and Andrew Berwick have given generously to strengthen student life and music programs at the UO, and their most recent gift goes one step further: They have pledged $5 million to establish an endowed deanship at the School of Music and Dance.

“This extraordinary gift from two of our most generous supporters will have a transformational impact on the programs in our school for years to come,” said Sabrina Madison-Cannon, who is now the Phyllis and Andrew Berwick Dean of the School of Music and Dance.

The gift will provide a flexible resource for the dean to pursue the school’s most important educational goals and support activities of the world-renowned Oregon Bach Festival, which is part of the school.

“This new funding will provide an unparalleled opportunity to launch ambitious faculty projects, showcase our spectacular student ensembles and grow our reputation as a world-class institution for the study and performance of music and dance,” Madison-Cannon said.

The Berwicks, known as Phyzz and Andy among friends, met and fell in love as undergraduates at the UO during the 1950s.

Andy Berwick graduated with a business degree in 1955 and went on to build a highly successful career in real estate development as the founder of Berwick-Pacific Corporation in San Mateo, California. Phyzz Berwick earned her degree in early childhood education in 1956.

Their shared love of music has been a consistent theme throughout their long tradition of philanthropic giving to the university.

“Music always made me feel more complete as a person, and it still does,” Phyzz Berwick said. “It really came as a gift to us, and now we’re giving back.”

The couple delivered the Oregon Bach Festival its largest single gift in 2014 with a donation of more than $7 million to establish the Berwick Academy as one of the world’s top orchestral training programs for historically informed performance practice. They have been significant donors to the Oregon Bach Festival since 2005, including a gift of $1.7 million that endowed the festival’s professional chorus.

They made the lead gift for Berwick Hall, giving $6.5 million toward construction of the 10,000-square-foot building, which opened beside the MarAbel B. Frohnmayer Music Building in 2017. It includes a rehearsal and performance space that was designed to acoustically emulate the experience of hearing the works of great composers, such as Bach, Haydn and Mozart, as they were performed in their day.

Outside the arts, they established the Richard C. Williams Endowed Student Leadership Fund, which supports programs, activities and scholarships in honor of the first director of the Erb Memorial Union, a mentor to Andy Berwick.

“Andy and Phyzz are two of our most loyal Ducks,” said UO President Michael H. Schill. “Their passion for music and the arts has enriched the campus experience for countless students, our entire community and music lovers from around the globe. This latest gift is yet another reminder of their incomparable legacy as tireless champions of the arts.”

The university has honored the Berwicks with several of its highest accolades, including the Pioneer Award in 2014 and the Oregon Bach Festival’s Saltzman Award, named for festival co-founder Royce Saltzman.

Madison-Cannon said she is deeply honored to be the first dean associated with the Berwicks’ gift.

“I am humbled and proud to be part of this significant new chapter in the history of our school, which Phyzz and Andy are making possible through their incredible generosity,” she said.

Phyzz Berwick said her husband “just started beaming” when she raised the possibility of creating an endowed deanship at the School of Music and Dance.

“He said, ‘Well, of course that's what we're going to do,’ so that was the tipping point,” she said.

The gift represents a vote of confidence in Madison-Cannon’s leadership of both the school and the Oregon Bach Festival, a position she has held since July 2018.

“We are thrilled with Sabrina,” Phyzz Berwick said. “She's just so right for that position.”

Phyzz Berwick added that she is especially impressed with Madison-Cannon’s “empathy and her wise way of dealing with situations,” and said she hoped the gift would motivate others to contribute to sustaining a vibrant arts scene on campus.

“When people forget about the arts, they forget about what makes human beings human,” she said. “That’s the whole purpose of giving: to inspire others, because what you get in return is complete joy.”

By Steve Fyffe, School of Music and Dance