Still Making a Difference

by Mary Hurley

Before her untimely passing in 2006 at the age of 52, Berklee trustee Phoebe Zaslove Milligan excelled in her career as an investment-banking executive. A trailblazer, Milligan was the first woman to become a managing director at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management. Those close to her noted an almost magical ability to intertwine her love of music with successfully managing investors’ money. Berklee became the beneficiary of her success in the business world and her passion for music.

Her longtime friend, Lawrence J. Sapanski—himself a successful financier— and his wife, Robin, established the Phoebe Zaslove Milligan Memorial Scholarship Fund at Berklee, a scholarship award made annually to recognize and support students who “exemplify great passion, intensity, and ambition for music.”

This endowed scholarship, to which Sapanski is a regular contributor, has now reached $500,000. Sapanski credits Milligan with introducing him and Robin to the pool of young talent at Berklee by inviting them to attend the Berklee Encore Gala. “The creativity and passion we saw in the student performers at the gala reflected the strengths Phoebe possessed,” Sapanski says. “We are pleased to honor Phoebe’s legacy with a scholarship that supports up-and-coming musicians.”

Music was a part of Milligan’s life since childhood, classical music rather than jazz was her first love. Growing up in New York, she received training at Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music and gave her first piano recital at the age of nine. She later studied music at the University of Kentucky and then Boston University, where she earned her bachelor of fine arts degree. During her student years, she performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She later began her career in investment banking when she joined First Boston as an options trader in 1978.

During her lifetime, Milligan shared her time and resources with Berklee. Funny, irreverent, outspoken, and larger than life, she quickly gravitated to Berklee after taking a position at State Street Global Advisors. She loved jazz—especially the music of vibraphonist Gary Burton. As a member of Berklee’s board of trustees and life of the party at the annual Encore Gala, Milligan’s skills and enthusiasm buoyed Berklee City Music and other programs.

Christian Li, a pianist of great promise from Horseheads, NY, is the most recent recipient of the scholarship in Milligan’s name. A largely self-taught jazz pianist until his college years, Li has been chosen for highly selective jazz programs at Berklee and elsewhere.

Stock trading and music making motivated Milligan to become a patron of the musical arts in Boston and New York. And the Phoebe Zaslove Milligan Memorial Scholarship Fund ensures that her spirited generosity will live on and continue to make a difference in the lives of talented young musicians. For more information about creating or supporting scholarships at Berklee, contact Cindy Albert Link via e-mail at or by phone at (617) 747-3094.


Mary Hurley is an assistant director in MIT’s Office of Foundation Relations.