Philanthropy: Spring 2020

Gifts help students start careers; first Lee Villaire Scholarship awarded; Roger H. Brown Thrive Scholarship Fund established; and Slaight Scholarship supports Canadians. 

April 26, 2020

Slaight Scholarship Supports Canadian Talent for 13th Year

By Mirek Vana 

Each May, an exceptional Canadian student receives the Slaight Family Scholarship. The award, now in its 13th year, covers the cost of tuition, room and board, and a laptop, and is renewable over four years of study. 

“We have been supporting Canadian talent at Berklee in my father Allan’s name for over a decade. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me since we’ve established our family foundation,” says Gary Slaight, media entrepreneur and president and CEO of Slaight Communications. “We support the recipients to pursue their dreams while getting the best music education in the world. Additionally, it’s been great to follow their stories as they go out and make their mark in the world.”

Recipients have included Elise Boeur ’16, whose Toronto-based band, Aerialists, was nominated for the 2019 Juno Award; Lucian Gray B.M. ’12, who participated in the 2019 Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz International Guitar Competition; and Natasha Pheko B.M. ’17, who says that the scholarship enabled her to pursue a performance degree, which helped her build her skills as a singer-songwriter and performer. 

Slaight has been a steadfast ally and ambassador for the college over the years. "Gary has been such a wonderful friend during my tenure—always ready to help with advice, expertise, and generosity,” says Berklee President Roger H. Brown. “His daughter, Berklee alumna Ali [B.M.’12], has been connected with her alma mater over the years in many meaningful ways. The Slaight Family Scholarship is the most generous scholarship program funded by a parent in Berklee's history.” We are grateful for Gary Slaight’s generosity and that of the Slaight Family Foundation.

Gifts Help Students Take First Steps in Careers

By Danielle Parillo and Bev Tryon

Fellowships give students the financial means to pursue quality internships that build important skills and industry connections. Recently, the Bronner family gave a generous gift to help fund the Berklee Career Center’s fellowship program that supports these students. We are grateful for the gift.

Santander Bank also made a generous gift. Its $75,000 donation will support 15 to 25 fellowships. At least three-quarters of recipients will be first-generation college students; others will be students who are eligible for the Federal Pell Grant Program. The fellowships, which provide up to $5,000 each, cover internship costs such as living expenses and lost wages. 

Fellows will receive career-related programming, such as mentoring and workshops, through the Career Center, and will enroll in entrepreneurial, technology, and innovation-focused programs, participating in quality internships at innovative startups in cities across the United States.

Songsmith Receives First Lee Villaire Scholarship 

By Ginny Fordham

Lee Villaire

Lee Villaire was a musician, singer, and performer with a lifelong love for the songwriting craft. When she passed away after a brief illness in January 2019, her fiancé, Roger Fluet, as well as family and friends, established the Lee Villaire Endowed Songwriter Scholarship. They celebrated her life with a concert in May 2019 at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, Massachusetts. All proceeds went toward this scholarship, which supports Berklee students who embody her zeal, passion, and work ethic.

In the fall, Berklee awarded the first Lee Villaire Songwriter Scholarship to songsmith Jobi Riccio of Colorado. She will headline the second annual Lee Villaire Pay It Forward fundraiser celebration, along with Bonnie Hayes, the chair of Berklee’s Songwriting Department. 

The Bull Run will host this full night of songs and songwriters, with help from Villaire’s friends. The lineup includes Emilie Faucher, John Ferullo, Fran LaMalva, Tom Smith, Nancy Beaudette, and Elizabeth Lorrey along with surf band the Spy Tones.

Her passion was the song, and the support of all these wonderful performers will keep that flame burning. 

Berklee Establishes Roger H. Brown Thrive Scholarship Fund

By Cindy Albert Link

Students around the country face many challenges today. More and more, young people graduate from college with excessive debt. Others leave before completing their degrees because they can’t afford to finish. Further, some are underprepared for today’s job opportunities. All this affects their ability to achieve personal and professional goals and to contribute to society to their full potential. However, Berklee is committed to nurturing our talented students, and to preparing them to attain their creative and career goals. 

In 2019, Berklee launched Thrive, a pathbreaking initiative to support student success, with three priorities: (1) providing scholarships for latter-semester students who demonstrate academic excellence and financial need, so that they can graduate at higher rates with less debt; (2) advising and counseling to help students have an engaging experience and high-quality education; and (3) preparing students for sustainable and purposeful careers.

We have launched several Thrive scholarship pilot programs. Results from these pilots have been highly encouraging, supporting the conclusion that graduation rates will go up with this program of directed financial assistance. Funding for these pilots comes not only from philanthropy, but also from operational cost reduction, another component of the program.

To honor President Roger H. Brown in his final year at Berklee, and to recognize his unwavering commitment to students, all Thrive scholarship gifts combine to form the Roger H. Brown Thrive Scholarship Fund. 

Over the past fiscal year, we have been grateful to those in the Berklee community who have generously committed to this critical initiative. To date, gifts total more than $10 million. If you would like to join Berklee alumni, parents, faculty, and friends who have come together in support of students while honoring the president, please contact Cindy Albert Link ( or Davis Wimberly ( of the Berklee Institutional Advancement Office.

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