A native of Collins, N.Y., Bob Young was a mechanic at Bethlehem Steel for nearly 20 years and also worked as a field superintendent for Herbert F. Darling Inc., a construction company based in Williamsville, until his retirement in 1989. He was a decorated U.S. Army veteran who earned the rank of sergeant and was stationed in the South Pacific during World War II. He and his late wife, Betty (Pine) Young, a native of Dayton, N.Y., always called western New York home, even though they had no connection to Fredonia.
Before Betty passed away, she told Bob that she had a desire for them to support a music program. Bob was reminded by a friend about the School of Music at Fredonia and, despite the fact that neither he nor Betty had any direct affiliation with the university, he thought this could be the way to make Betty's dream a reality and help students pursue a career in music.
When I met Bob on May 15, 2009, my first impression was that he was a very simple and kind man who was searching for a way to memorialize Betty. He was already years into his quest to find an outlet to make her wish a reality. Betty was a homemaker and played the piano, and Bob stated, "My wife liked music and the piano, and we talked about what we might be able to do."
Making a Dream a Reality
At the age of 86, Bob presented a $100,000 check to former Fredonia President Dennis Hefner to establish the Bob and Betty Young School of Music Endowment Fund. Income generated by the fund that was established through the Fredonia College Foundation provides School of Music scholarships and support for ensemble tours. Beyond creating the endowment, Bob committed an additional $100,000 bequest to be earmarked for the fund.
This gift has had a profound impact on the School of Music by enhancing its ability to furnish scholarships to talented students and enrich the experiences of Fredonia students. The endowment also assists in the recruitment of bright and talented high school students.
Bob was able to meet dozens of students who benefitted from his scholarship. The scholarship kept Betty's memory alive for Bob, and the students have been grateful for the support provided by Bob and Betty. Bob's quest to fulfill Betty's wish came true.
Over time, Bob was very happy to be able to meet the students who received his award. He enjoyed himself immensely at a special reception arranged for him by the School of Music where each student played their instruments for Bob as a gesture of appreciation for his generous gift. His only regret is that he didn't start the scholarship fund when Betty was still alive. As he said, "She would have loved to see this and meet all these kids."
As Bob was aging and not able to come to Fredonia, students went out of their way to keep in touch with him. One of his recipients, from the Class of 2011, even went to his home to play her senior recital on Betty's piano.
Extending the Impact
One day Bob said to me: "I like what you all are doing and I want you to know I left a percentage of my residual estate to the Fredonia College Foundation." We discussed what he would like us to do with that part of his bequest. Bob had begun his college education with plans to become an engineer, but didn't finish his degree because he ran out of money. Reflecting on his own circumstances, Bob decided that he would like to support students who need financial assistance to stay in school.
With that in mind, Bob endowed $10,000 for the Bob and Betty Young Emergency Grant Scholarship Fund. His bequest from the residual of his estate will add additional value to the fund, giving it the potential of being the largest of its kind to assist Fredonia students who would otherwise not have the money to finish their education.
On Sept. 12, 2014, Bob passed away. He left us with a legacy that will impact the lives of many students for years to come. We are grateful that Bob became a part of our Fredonia family. His legacy reminds us that we all have one life to live, love and leave. Bob was a man who lived a humble life, loved his wife with an incredible devotion and left us with a remarkable legacy.
Contact the Fredonia College Foundation at (716) 673-3321 or Foundation@fredonia.edu to discuss how you can leave your legacy of support for Fredonia students and programs. We would be happy to work with you to find the gift option that fulfills your wishes.
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