$1.4M Gift Supports Oberlin Flute Students

Anonymous donation augments previously established Robert Willoughby Flute Scholarship Fund.

December 10, 2021

Cathy Partlow Strauss ’84

flute section of an orchestra.
Oberlin flutists perform with the Oberlin Orchestra in Chicago's Symphony Center in 2016. The orchestra returned to the road in 2019 for a performance in New York's Carnegie Hall.
Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko

Robert Willoughby, the unsurpassed teacher, performer, mentor, and colleague, served as professor of flute at Oberlin for 37 years. His legacy, in addition to the 200 flutists who studied with him during the course of his long career, lives on in the Robert Willoughby Flute Scholarship Fund, endowed in 2017.

An anonymous donor has now infused that fund with an additional $1.4 million—a remarkable gift that exponentially increases the overall value of the fund to more than $1.5 million and allows for the awarding of a full scholarship each year.

“This gift will make an Oberlin Conservatory education available to deserving students for years to come,” says Dean of the Conservatory William Quillen. “We are grateful beyond words to the donor for their extraordinary gift and for helping transform the lives of students.” 

The Willoughby Fund supports talented flute students intending to major in flute performance at Oberlin. It was established in recognition of Willoughby's significant accomplishments as a teacher and his impact on the world of classical music.

Oberlin flute professor Alexa Still was part of the cadre behind the establishment of the scholarship fund in 2014, along with former Willoughby students Wendy Rolfe ’74 and Katherine Borst Jones and Oberlin Baroque flute professor Michael Lynn.

Still is awestruck by the recent gift. “I cannot find words to describe the joy and relief that this gift will bring to the flute students who deserve to be at Oberlin but would otherwise be prevented by financial challenges,” she says. “This gift is literally a life-changer for them.”

Willoughby’s son John, another essential figure in establishing and supporting the Willoughby Fund, maintains a website dedicated to his father’s work and life, and also incorporates tributes from the students Willoughby shepherded.

“A scholarship recipient himself, my father understood the importance of making music education available, regardless of financial constraints,” says Willoughby. “My father dedicated his life to bringing music into the world and taught until a few weeks before his death at 96. His success speaks for itself, as his students have gone on to staff the world’s leading orchestras and educational institutions. This incredibly generous donation is a huge step toward making even more aspiring flutists’ dreams come true.”

Contributions to Oberlin Conservatory or the Robert Willoughby Flute Scholarship Fund can be made through the Oberlin College and Conservatory Giving page. For more information, contact Conservatory Giving Director Sally Takada at stakada@oberlin.edu or 440-775-5475.

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