Donner-Galbraith memorial scholarship saved by benefit concert
In a society filled with people interested in the well being of others, two remarkable students stick out in the minds of university staff and community members, even four years after their deaths.
Blake Donner and Jennifer Lynn Galbraith, along with their friends Scott McDonald and Ariel Singer, drowned early August 2005 while swimming to an underground chamber through an underwater passageway.
Donner, committed to pushing boundaries and improving the human condition, was willing to color outside the lines. He sang in a punk rock band called Parallax and was involved in the Food Not Bombs charity organization. Galbraith, his girlfriend, was outgoing and passionate and was concerned with women’s issues.
Donner, son of English professor Laura Hamblin; and Galbraith, daughter of Dorice Galbraith who works as administrative support of the English department, were both well known on campus.
The Dean of the College of Humanities Arts of Social Sciences at the time, William Cobb, sought to memorialize the well-loved students and reach out to his coworkers with a private scholarship.
“We needed something to keep their memory alive,” said Cobb.
A scholarship was formed with very specific criteria for its recipients. Students could not apply, but rather had to be nominated. They hoped to target those individuals similar to Donner and Galbraith – out in the community helping others.
However, a private scholarship can take a long time, even years to endow. Cobb felt that if they were to wait to award the scholarship the memory of Donner and Galbraith would begin to fade.
As dean, Cobb could put department money into the fund, but only with the help of community and university members was he able to endow the scholarship in less than a year.
Dennis Potter, a good friend of Donner’s and professor of Philosophy, held concerts in center stage with Donner’s bandmates and other local musicians. Philosophy professors Shannon Mussett and Mike Shaw donated their summer earnings and Phoenix developer Ira Fulton matched donations up to $1,000 through that December. Manager of Outback Steak House Jeff Weissgerber donated his food and staff to a luncheon of over 300 people and by January 2006 the Donner-Galbraith Memorial Scholarship was endowed with $30,000.
Now in 2009, the scholarship has been given to extraordinary persons three times. The economy has taken a turn for the worse and the scholarship office with the Donner-Galbraith committee made the decision to not award the scholarship this coming January rather than cut into it’s endowment.
When English professor Steven Fullmer heard about the decision he decided to do something. Every semester in conjunction with his English 276R class Fullmer hosts a concert. Though the class is not being held during the Fall 2009 semester, Fullmer has planned an acoustic benefit concert on Nov. 17 featuring Mark Slaughter, Adjacent to Nothing and Broke City. There will also be lectures by award-winning American screen writer and producer Barry Morrow and President of Wheelchair Bodybuilding Inc. Nick Scott.
With all guests donating their time and Fullmer’s plan to fill the Ragan theater at $10 per person, the Donner-Galbraith committee has reconsidered their decision about the scholarship. Cobb hopes that with the help of the concert they will be able to bridge the gap between the bad economy and giving a scholarship to memorialize those great students, Donner and Galbraith.
“I always admired Blake because he would not take no for an answer,” said Cobb. “How could we not find that money somewhere?”
The concert will be held Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Ragan Theater, tickets are $10 at campus connection. Lecture series will be free with Scott speaking at 9 a.m. and Morrow at 10 a.m. in LI 120.