School of Music receives largest gift in history to support jazz studies

The School of Music at the University of Louisville recently received the largest planned financial gift in its 82-year history.

The jazz studies program will receive $6.3 million thanks to a generous donation from Max Baumgardner, a retired pilot and investor from Louisville. The “Max Baumgardner Endowed Fund for Excellence in Jazz Studies” will support faculty positions, student scholarships and additional programming.

The substantial bequest is part of a $12.6 million total planned gift from Baumgardner. The remaining $6.3 million will go to UofL athletics in part to support student academic resources.

“This gift will preserve the jazz studies program and ensure that it remains the premiere program of its kind in the state for the foreseeable future,” said Christopher Doane, dean of the School of Music. “Not many university programs have support to this degree and we are exceedingly grateful to Max as our benefactor for recognizing the value of jazz studies and the significance of supporting the arts.”

Baumgardner’s passion for music is one of the reasons he chose to focus his gift toward the university.

“I’ve always loved music,” he said. “I’m sort of a fanatic.”

Along with music, his other passion is UofL – where he attended for two years before joining U.S. Naval Aviation and deploying to the Korean War. He was an avid fan of the athletics teams when he was a student and that continues today.

Of the $6.3 million for athletics, 10 percent will exclusively benefit academic programs supporting student athletes and the new academic resource center.

“We are extremely grateful for the generosity of Max Baumgardner for the major gift that will be used to assist our student-athletes in achieving the academic success that we stress within our department,” said UofL Vice President/Director of Athletics Tom Jurich. “The academic success of our student-athletes and the importance of earning their degrees are among the most important objectives within our department, and this gift ensures that we will have the resources in place to impact the academic success of our student-athletes.”

Baumgardner thanked his friends and advisers and said he hopes his gift will inspire others to think about making a lasting impact and “kicking in money of their own.”

“It was neat accumulating this money with help along the way from people like Joe Wright, Joyce Meyer and John Snyder,” Baumgardner said. “But it’s even neater to give it away.”