Schalon assures the drumbeat will play on

A life of giving leads to significant support for percussion at MSU.

Marcie Schalon was a lifelong philanthropist whose hard work, spirited nature and generosity resulted in numerous transformative projects for MSU and the SW Michigan community. Her last gift to MSU will vastly improve Percussion Area facilities.
Marcie Schalon loved the Spartan Marching Band, football games, and especially the MSU Drumline in part because her son, Scott, was a percussionist in high school and college.

Marcie Schalon spent a good portion of her adult life figuring out ways she could help people in need and enhance the places she loved. So it was fitting that her last generous act before unexpectedly passing away in July at the age of 92 was a meaningful one.

Schalon, born Marcella Jean Gast in 1926, loved southwest Michigan and her alma mater, and she had a significant impact on both. While a student at MSU – MSC at the time – she earned a BA and master’s degree in social work, was a member of MSC’s first female cheerleading squad and Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, and enjoyed many evenings swing dancing. Her bond with the university became strong, and there was a special place in her heart for the Spartan Marching Band because her son, Scott, was a percussionist both in high school and college. 

Her personal interest became tangible when Schalon informed the College of Music that she would provide $500,000 in funding toward the construction of the Billman Music Pavilion. Her gift, facilitated through her estate, will result in the naming of the Percussion Rehearsal Hall in the new, state-of-the-art facility currently under construction.

With her gift, the facilities for the Percussion Area of the college will go from worst to among the best in the Big Ten. From a cramped basement space in the venerable but aged Music Building to a spacious, versatile rehearsal hall in the Billman Music Pavilion, percussion at MSU will now have the facilities that match the high quality of skill for which MSU percussion is known.

“The Percussion Area in the college has excelled despite the challenges we have had with the facilities and we feel honored that there are people like Marcie Schalon who recognize our need and our value,” said Gwendolyn Dease, professor and chair of the Percussion Area. “We will be forever grateful to Marcie and will remember her fondly.”  

According to Suz Schalon, Marcie’s daughter, supporting the percussion space in the pavilion made perfect sense to her mom. The Schalon family loved going to MSU football games and especially seeing the drumline in action. Given her son’s life-long percussion interest and talent, Marcie felt the connection to the pavilion was perfect.

“Mom knew that the visibility of the new building and the enhanced facilities would attract even more talent, both from in-state and out-of-state students, and it certainly will help the wonderful faculty who pour their lives into the students they are working with,” Suz Schalon said. “What a lovely reward, to give them this new building for all the work that’s been done and all the excitement they have brought to us.”

Marcie personally spearheaded several additional projects at MSU. She and her brother, Warren Gast, and their spouses, gifted the MSU Eli Broad College of Business with the William C. and Martha H. Gast Business Library Endowment in honor of their father who attended Michigan Agricultural College. In 2003, Marcie also helped launch a pioneering program in MSU’s School of Social Work and College of Law called “Chance at Childhood” which cross-trains child welfare professionals to serve abused and neglected children.

The Percussion Studio will undergo one of the most dramatic transformations in the new Music Pavilion. This is a digital rendering of the percussion rehearsal room with skylights and acoustic baffle ceiling panels to fill the space with natural light.

She didn’t stop there. Marcie created the Marcella Gast Schalon Scholarship in MSU’s College of Social Science, and her ongoing dedication to MSU resulted in recognition with MSU’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004 and Outstanding Philanthropist Award in 2010.

Marcie and her late husband Ed Schalon, who passed away in 2008 after 58 years of marriage, also partnered in philanthropy through their creation of the Schalon Foundation. For over 20 years, the Foundation has made grants to support the arts, education and faith-based organizations and social services programs primarily located in their hometown of St. Joseph and the surrounding southwest Michigan area.

One of their proudest achievements was the installation of a carousel in St. Joseph that was inspired by their memories of Silver Beach Amusement Park. Marcie was the catalyst for the development of an amazing community asset that included the Silver Beach Center complex housing the new Silver Beach Carousel, Shadowland Ballroom, and Curious Kids’ Discovery Zone along with the Whirlpool Compass Fountain and adjacent community event green space.

Still, Marcie’s thoughts never strayed far from the experiences she had at MSU over so many years. The Pavilion, the benefits it will bring to student and faculty musicians, and the connection it has to her love of MSU and her family’s love of music, made perfect sense.

“My parents were not discriminatory in their love of music,” Suz Schalon explained. “They liked symphonic programs, barbershop singing, glee clubs, church music, and much more. It just permeated our lives, and so it is only natural that Mom’s last gift shows the appreciation my parents had all their lives for the musical arts. They believed, as do my brother and I, that music enhances your quality of life.”

The Billman Music Pavilion is high quality in all aspects. It is a 37,000 square foot structure that will include multiple rehearsal and performance halls, additional practice rooms, new lobby, courtyard and terrace areas, and other teaching and technology spaces. The overall project also includes 8,500 square feet of renovations to existing spaces. It is slated for completion in the spring of 2020.

“This building is providing a new foundation for all of the music dreams that are coming into this space from students everywhere,” Suz Schalon said. “It’s going to be a jewel for the university. My mom was so excited for everyone who is going to be associated with it now and in the future. It really is such a wonderful, satisfying feeling to know Mom’s legacy of giving at MSU will resonate far into the future.”

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