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Gift of $5 million to fund piano award in perpetuity

Jean Gimbel Lane’s generosity brings world-famous pianists to campus

Jean Gimbel Lane

EVANSTON - A $5 million commitment from Northwestern University alumna Jean Gimbel Lane to the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music will ensure the perpetuity of a prestigious piano award named in her honor. In recognition of her longtime support, Northwestern will name a room in the new Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts the Jean Gimbel Lane Reception Room.

The $50,000 Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance honors pianists who have achieved the highest levels of national and international recognition. The renowned pianists complete residencies at Northwestern, where they perform and present master classes, lectures and chamber music coaching sessions.

In bringing some of the world’s most sought-after pianists to the Evanston campus, the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance has extended Northwestern’s reach on the world stage while its students benefit from exposure to these talented musicians.

A 1952 graduate of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, with a degree in art history, Mrs. Lane is a lifelong supporter of the arts. A connoisseur of piano music, she also is a pianist and played the harpsichord in the baroque Portola Trio. 

“Music has played such an important part in my life, and so has Northwestern,” Mrs. Lane said. “I’m thrilled to be a part of the beautiful new Ryan Center for the Musical Arts and to know that the prize will continue to bring top musicians to the University. Music means everything to me.” 

In recognition of the Lane family’s continued generosity, Northwestern will name the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts’ reception room, adjacent to the Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall, the Jean Gimbel Lane Reception Room.

“Mrs. Lane and her family have been true partners in advancing the arts at Northwestern. We are extremely appreciative of this visionary planned gift and of Mrs. Lane’s commitment to bringing these world-renowned pianists together with students to develop the next generation of great musicians,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said. 

The Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance was established in 2005 with a contribution from Mrs. Lane and her late husband, L. W. Lane, Jr.

Mr. Lane, former owner of Lane Publishing Company, a family business, and former U.S. ambassador to Australia, passed away in 2010.

Winners of the biennial piano prize include virtuosos Garrick Ohlsson (2014), Murray Perahia (2012), Yefim Bronfman (2010), Stephen Hough (2008) and Richard Goode (2006). 

Winners receive a $50,000 cash award and spend two to three non-consecutive weeks in residence at the Bienen School of Music.

Mrs. Lane’s most recent commitment will ensure that the prize continues to support internationally acclaimed pianists while inspiring Northwestern students.

“The Bienen School of Music is extremely grateful to Mrs. Lane and her husband for establishing the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance,” Northwestern Bienen School Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery said. “Since 2005, the Northwestern community has benefited from the talents of five world-class artists. Mrs. Lane’s new gift ensures the future legacy of this prestigious award.”

Mrs. Lane has focused her charitable contributions, as did her late husband, on the environment, education and the arts. The two philanthropists also established the Jean Gimbel Lane Humanities Professorship and the Lane Fund for Environmental Studies at Northwestern. 

Mrs. Lane has made numerous gifts to Northwestern over several decades and is a member of the Rogers Society, which honors those who have included the University in their estate plans.

While a student at Northwestern, Mrs. Lane was a member of Alpha Chi Omega, the Architectural Interiors Club and the Women’s Athletic Association, among other organizations.

The $5 million planned gift from Mrs. Lane counts toward We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, the $3.75 billion University-wide fundraising effort announced in March 2014. Funds raised through the campaign will help realize the transformational vision set forth in Northwestern’s strategic plan and solidify the University’s position among the world’s leading research universities.

The Ryan Center for the Musical Arts, which overlooks Lake Michigan with the Chicago skyline in the distance, is located at 70 Arts Circle Drive, on the southeastern edge of the Evanston campus. 

The new building represents a major commitment on the part of the donors who have made its construction possible. A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place Sept. 24, 2015, kicking off a yearlong celebration of Bienen School activities for the new building.

“The naming of the Jean Gimbel Lane Reception Room is a fitting tribute to Mrs. Lane,” Montgomery said. “We are indebted to this remarkable woman whose generosity continues to shape the next chapter in the rich history of the Bienen School of Music.”

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