MSUToday
Published: Feb. 2, 2016

It started with Shakespeare

Contact(s): Devon Barrett University Advancement office: (517) 884-9547 barre132@msu.edu

Linda and Bill TrevarthenLike many great contemporary novels, movie plotlines or smash-hit stage productions, Bill and Linda  Trevarthen’s story has Shakespearean roots.

No, really. They met in a Shakespeare class. On their first date to see the Zeffirelli-directed version of Romeo and Juliet, the tragic end for a pair of star-crossed lovers in Verona became the happy beginning for a pair of humanities students at MSU.

Now, Bill and Linda are paying tribute to the place that brought them together, and the shared passion for history, culture and art that bonded them, with three future endowments — to the MSU Museum, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, and the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities — which will be funded through their estate plans.

“It’s hard to think about where your money is going to go after you die, because it’s hard to think about dying. Nobody wants to think about that!” Bill says. “But giving takes the sting out of it. Because you know, once you’re gone, what you’ve left behind will do great things.”

“We began giving back to MSU very soon after obtaining our bachelor degrees,” says Linda. “It wasn’t a huge amount, but enough to give us Presidents Club status and get us connected with other donors when we were just in our early twenties. Payroll deduction was easy; being in the Presidents Club was fun; and we felt, well, proud of being ‘continuing donors.’  But who knew that the real fun and excitement would begin the moment we decided to make specific estate gifts and suddenly see, first hand, some of the things our bequest could accomplish.”

Early on in their life together, they realized they were having too much fun in the Lansing-area cultural scene to stray very far.

Linda landed a job on campus at the MSU Testing Office, where she soon worked her way up to the position of testing services manager, earning a master’s degree in literacy development from MSU along the way. Under her leadership, MSU became the first four-year institution to earn full certification from the National College Testing Association.

Bill worked in publishing for many years before becoming the executive director of Michigan Government Television, a statewide television network funded by Michigan’s cable television industry that covered the Michigan House of Representatives, Executive Branch and Michigan Supreme Court.

Besides their geographic proximity to MSU, they stayed close to the community in other ways. Bill served on the board of directors of the College of Arts and Letters Alumni Association and volunteers with the MSU Museum. For many years and in many capacities, including that of president, Linda served on the board of directors of the Friends of Kresge Art Museum. Both Linda and Bill are also past presidents of the former Opera Company of Mid-Michigan, which had strong ties to MSU.

At the Broad Museum and the MSU Museum, the Trevarthens’ gifts will provide discretionary funding.

“When you work with an organization like that,” Bill says, referencing the time he and Linda have spent volunteering with the MSU Museum and the former Kresge Art Museum, “you realize that there can never be too much discretionary funding, and you also gain a lot of trust that the organization will put it to good use when they have it.”

They also created the William Charles and Linda Stock Trevarthen Endowed Scholarship for the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities to support students who share their dedication to the humanities.

 “People often say that the literary canon, the great artists, philosophers and writers are no longer relevant and that there’s no real use in studying them. But everything — everything — we encounter in art and culture today has roots that go back to that body of art, literature and philosophy. Our familiarity with these works is essential to our ability to look at the world in its current state and understand how we got here,” Bill says.

And in a way, their decision to give back to MSU is Shakespearean in its own right. In the same way the Bard’s body of work will forever influence literature, film and theatre, the Trevarthens’ legacy will forever support history, art and culture at their alma mater.

 Reprinted with permission from Empower Extraordinary: The Campaign for Michigan State University

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