Giving spirit fosters music’s growth at La Sierra
Dec. 24, 2009
By Darla Martin Tucker
Since it garnered national accreditation in the mid 1990s, the music department at La Sierra University has tuned up its programs, recruited students and added new faculty.
The nod from the National Association of Schools of Music in Reston, Va. helped the music department move forward by proving La Sierra’s dedication to the success of students and faculty. But without a generous gift of land and gift annuities from alumna and physician Jane E. Brown aimed at benefiting the music library, the music department would have had a difficult time achieving accreditation. Its library lacked materials and funds, a necessary component of the accreditation designation.
“At that time it was the weakest area in terms of getting approval. We had recordings but very few books [and music scores],” said Jeffry Kaatz, La Sierra’s vice president for Advancement, a music professor and former chair of the music department.
“Accreditation ensures that the music department provides balanced and competitive curriculum as compared to other schools in the country,” Kaatz said. “It ensures that the university has a plan for ensuring appropriate faculty expertise to deliver curriculum. It also helps the university understand the need for quality facilities and musical instruments, and requires a plan to shore up any deficiencies in these areas.”
It all started with an endowment established in 1997 through Brown’s generosity. Brown’s gift of property and the eventual proceeds from the sale of the land created the Frances L. Brown Music Collection and the Frances L. Brown Music Endowment.
Jane Brown’s sister, Frances Brown, taught vocal studies in La Sierra’s music department for approximately 22 years between 1943 and 1971 and Jane wanted to honor her sister’s legacy. “I had no idea it [endowment] would be as useful as it was and I was grateful her name is remembered,” Brown said. Frances Brown’s musical career included years teaching at Helderberg College in South Africa where she founded the first acapella touring choir.
Initial gifts from Brown allowed department leaders to begin shopping for music materials to bolster the library and prepare it for accreditation inspections. “We took $100,000 and bought the things we needed,” Kaatz said, including a collection of Mozart and Beethoven scores, reference materials and music dictionaries. “It was like Christmas shopping with a blank check.”
Brown’s land, originally donated to La Sierra in 1986, consisted of a three-acre plot on Alabama Street in Redlands. Brown, a graduate of both La Sierra and Loma Linda universities, required that both schools benefit from the property sale proceeds. The land sold in December 2003.
In April 2004 Brown set up a deferred gift fund for gift annuities and the bequest, up to a specified total sum, to continue building up the E. Jane and Frances L. Brown Music Library Endowment. The music department eventually named its library after Jane’s sister. The endowment funds the Frances L. Brown Music Library.
Brown has invested in several charitable gift annuities with La Sierra over the years, most recently in June. In addition to honoring her sister’s contributions, the annuities also provide Brown with monthly interest income. “I did it because it was a good investment for me as well as for the school. I get an income stream which keeps me in toast,” she quipped. “They’re still a good buy.”
Holders of charitable gift annuities sign agreements dictating how they want their money used at La Sierra. They can specify a particular project or the funds may be designated unrestricted, allowing the university to determine the best use of the money.
Brown, Frances Brown, their brother, Delmer, and parents Alfred Christopher and Florence arrived in Riverside in 1923 following a dusty, bumpy trek from Minitare, Neb. In their former small, midwestern town, the siblings had only a public school option for education. Piled into their Model-T Ford, the family chugged across the Rocky Mountains toward the West Coast in search of a Seventh-day Adventist school. “My mother had them [academies] all listed,” Jane Brown recounted.
They finally arrived in Riverside, Calif. after visiting most of the Adventist schools on the West Coast. The elder Browns liked one-year-old La Sierra, then a junior college, and the family settled into a house on Magnolia Avenue in Riverside’s Arlington area. The campus consisted of separate dormitories for boys and girls and an administration building was under construction.
Florence Brown, determined to help pay for her children’s Adventist education, worked as a nurse in the tuberculosis unit at Riverside County Hospital. She inspired a young Jane who watched her mother study on her own for state nursing registration requirements and pass the exams with flying colors. “I take my hat off to her,” Brown said.
Jane Brown entered La Sierra in the seventh grade and graduated from the junior college in 1931. She studied English for one year at Pacific Union College then returned to the Inland Empire to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She studied nursing at Loma Linda University, then called the College of Medical Evangelists, and graduated in 1936.
While working as a nurse for White Memorial Hospital in Glendale, Brown joined the 47th General Hospital Unit headed for the South Pacific for a military tour of duty during World War II. A Loma Linda physician at the College of Medical Evangelists formed the unit of largely Seventh-day Adventist medical personnel.
The thinking at the time was, “Doctors were all being hauled into the service, so why not have their own unit?” Brown said. The group landed first in New Guinea where they treated multiple cases of jungle rot, a foot condition suffered by soldiers who got their boots and feet wet trekking through damp jungles. “We had wards of dermatology patients,” Brown said. They next traveled to the northern Philippine islands and prepared to build a hospital unit to house war casualties. But before they completed their project, the war ended and the Loma Linda medical workers came home.
Back home, Brown worked in the operating room at Riverside Community Hospital and took pre-medicine classes at La Sierra to enter medical school and become a doctor. “I couldn’t see any future working eight hours and getting nothing,” she said. Her brother previously studied medicine at Loma Linda’s medical college and worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C.
Brown graduated from the College of Medical Evangelists in 1953 and pursued a residency in anesthesiology at White Memorial. She worked between 10 and 15 years in the Los Angeles and Glendale areas as an anesthesiologist before retiring in the 1980s. She was married 15 years to businessman Jim Corbett until his passing.
Brown holds warm memories of her original alma mater, La Sierra and of the good work carried out by her sister at the university. She recalls the days she and Frances attended the school and drove the family’s Model-T around on dirt roads. “We called it [Model-T] ‘static’,” after someone scribbled the name in the dust on the car’s window, Brown laughed, remembering.
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