School of Music To Be Named for Ernest and Sarah Butler Following $55 Million Gift, Largest at Public Music School

The School of Music in the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin will be named for Dr. Ernest and Sarah Butler following the couple's gift of $55 million, the largest single gift for a music school at a public university.

William Powers Jr. with Ernest and Sarah Butler

Watch video of the March 18 press conference announcing the $55 million gift from Dr. Ernest and Sarah Butler. (Video opens in a new window.) The naming of the "Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music" recognizes the Butlers for more than 25 years of philanthropic support for the School of Music.

Photo: Christina Murrey

The naming of the "Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music" recognizes the Butlers for more than 25 years of philanthropic support for the School of Music.

The gift is the largest in the history of the School of Music and the College of Fine Arts and the second largest single gift to The University of Texas at Austin, exceeded only by a bequest of more than $245 million from the estate of John A. and Katherine G. Jackson. The university's Jackson School of Geosciences is named for the Jacksons.

The Butlers' gift surpasses a $44 million donation made in December 2007 by the Lilly Endowment toward a new building for the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

"This is a truly wonderful gift, and it comes from two truly wonderful peopleSarah and Ernest Butler," said William Powers Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin. "The Butlers have been long-time supporters of our School of Music, and they are dear friends. We are proud that our School of Music will now bear their names. This new gift will be transformative by propelling an already outstanding school into one of the very top schools in the nation. No comprehensive university can be great without great arts, and the Butlers have recognized this with their extraordinarily generous gift. We are, and will always be, grateful."

The Butlers' gift is designated for student, faculty and program support, with more than half of the endowment targeting students' needs. Their gift will be paid in installments over the couple's lifetime, including a portion as a bequest.

According to Douglas Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts, the Butlers' gift is transformative because it will allow the school to realize many long-term goals.

"I cannot overstate the significance of this gift for our School of Music," Dempster said. "This affords The University of Texas at Austin and the state an opportunity to create the very finest public music school in the nation. And that is our intent. The Butlers are truly exceptional patrons of the arts who understand the transformative power of bold giving. We're indebted to them for their generosity, for their vision and their visionary philanthropy."

Since 1983, the Butlers have created nine endowments in the School of Music to support students, faculty and programs. In 2004, the School of Music named its opera program after the couple in appreciation of their $2 million endowment for the opera theatre program.

Ernest and Sarah Butler
President William Powers Jr. congratulates Sarah and Ernest Butler at the March 18 press conference announcing their $55 million gift and the naming of the "Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music."
Photo: Christina Murrey

"We love music, and we have great appreciation for, and belief in, the educational value of the arts," Dr. Butler said. "We have supported the UT School of Music for many years, and we will continue to focus our philanthropy on this worthy institution through this legacy gift."

Dr. Butler is a retired physician, who specialized in otolaryngology. He is a member of the College of Fine Arts Advisory Council, and past treasurer and trustee of the Texas Medical Association Foundation. Mrs. Butler is chairwoman of the Ballet Austin Board of Directors, a member of the Blanton Museum Council, and a member of the university's Development Board. The Butlers are members of the university's Chancellor's Council, President's Associates and the Texas Exes.

In addition to supporting the School of Music, the Butlers have been major donors to local arts organizations, including the Austin Symphony Orchestra, the Austin Museum of Art, the Blanton Museum of Art, the Long Center for the Performing Arts, Ballet Austin and the Austin Lyric Opera.

"The Butlers have been personally committed to supporting UT's School of Music for many years," said Glenn Chandler, director of the School of Music. "They are knowledgeable philanthropists who fully understand that not only will their gift secure the school's future, but will immediately benefit our programs by allowing us to achieve a new level of excellence. We are profoundly grateful for their generosity and are proud to be known as the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music."

With nearly 100 faculty members and more than 700 students from around the world, the university's School of Music ranks among the top music schools in the country. A distinguished faculty of world-class scholars and performers help to attract and retain talented students in programs that range from composition, performance, teacher training and musicology to jazz and sound engineering.

Learn more about the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music online.