$1.5 million Winspear gift establishes UNT opera chair

Don Winspear
Don Winspear, son of the late Bill Winspear, speaks to the audience at the March 11 performance of the opera Lucia di Lammermoor at the University of North Texas. Also pictured are Paula Homer, who has been named to the Margot and Bill Winspear Chair in Opera Studies, and James C. Scott, dean of the UNT College of Music. Photo by Steve Smith.
Monday, March 12, 2012

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- A $1.5 million gift from the estate of the late philanthropist and arts patron Bill Winspear has established the endowed Margot and Bill Winspear Chair in Opera Studies at the University of North Texas College of Music. Paula Homer, director of opera who joined the UNT faculty in 1992, has been selected as the first person to hold the chair, effective immediately.

"We know how much opera meant to Bill Winspear, and his generous estate gift to UNT could serve no better purpose than helping to assure the future of opera in the College of Music," said James C. Scott, dean of the UNT College of Music. "The Margot and Bill Winspear Chair in Opera will create a place of distinction for opera here in the same way the opera house in their name does for the city of Dallas. The designation will join that of our Winspear Performance Hall as a defining presence in music at UNT."

The endowed fund will be used for opera production costs, financial support for voice students in opera, supplementary salary or other professional support for the chair and other opera-related expenses.

"This generous gift and the endowed chair in opera provide the stability needed for training aspiring opera singers," Homer said. "Our students can look forward to exciting opportunities to perform in full productions and our patrons can thrill at the top quality singing and acting provided by the best recruits in the nation."


About Paula Homer

Homer serves as producer and stage director for UNT opera productions and oversees the training program and curriculum. Since joining UNT in 1992, she has produced and stage directed more than 50 full productions, including three collaborative opera productions with the A. Steffani Conservatory of Music in Italy. Three productions have earned first-place awards from the National Opera Association, including the 2011 production of Marc Blitzstein's Regina.

Homer earned music degrees from Indiana University and St. Mary's College at Notre Dame. She has served as co-director of the Apprentice Artists Program and stage director for Des Moines Opera from 1990 to 2002 and was founder and artistic director for OperaWorks, Inc., a traveling professional opera company, from 1982 to 1992.


About Bill Winspear

Bill Winspear, the founder and CEO of Associated Materials Inc., died in 2007. The Margot and Bill Winspear Performance Hall in the Murchison Performing Arts Center at UNT is named for Bill Winspear and his wife, Margot, as is the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House in Dallas.

In 1998, Margot and Bill Winspear gave the university a $2 million gift -- the largest single gift in the university's history at the time -- to complete the 400-seat Lyric Theater in the Murchison Performing Arts Center. A 1,200-seat performance hall in the Murchison Performing Arts Center is named in their honor.

In 2002, the couple established a $1.7 million endowment to fund scholarships and a faculty enhancement program, using a portion of the 1998 gift to complete that endowment.

In 2003, Winspear donated the $1 million Regal Eagle touring bus, a 45-foot recreational vehicle for supporters and friends of UNT to travel to Denton.

The Winspears were named honorary alumni in 1994 for their outstanding support of the university. In 2000, they received the Green Glory Award, and that same year, Bill Winspear received an honorary doctor of performing arts degree from UNT. In 2006, the College of Music unveiled a life-size oil painting of the couple in thanks for their support of the College of Music.

The Winspears long supported the Dallas Opera, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and other organizations.


About UNT Opera

UNT Opera offers intensive training and performance opportunities to talented undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Music. The opera program offers two full productions each year in the intimate Lyric Theater of the Murchison Performing Arts Center, as well as a biennial gala concert of operatic excerpts and opportunities to perform across the country.

In January, the UNT Opera program was presented with a first-place award in the National Opera Association's Opera Production Competition in Division V – the highest division among conservatory and university programs – for its 2011 production of Marc Blitzstein's Regina.

Also, in partnership with the Dallas Opera, four UNT students recently performed Doctor Miracle to critical acclaim as part of a double cast performing at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas and in 32 schools reaching about 5,000 students in the North Texas area. In addition, UNT Opera students have been invited to perform at the annual gala concert in March for the Center for Contemporary Opera in New York City – the leading proponent of new opera in the U.S.


About the UNT College of Music

The UNT College of Music is one of the largest and most respected comprehensive music schools in the country. About 1,600 music students attend UNT each year, participating in more than 40 widely varied ensembles and pursuing specialized studies in performance, composition, music education or music scholarship. UNT faculty members and students have made appearances on the world's finest stages and have produced numerous recordings, many receiving Grammy awards and nominations. Distinguished UNT alumni can be found around the globe, in top music ensembles, opera companies, universities and schools.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108