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Mysterious donation resounds at Queens College

TimesLedger Newspapers

Educators were pleased to find the Queens College music department $1.6 million richer after a mysterious donation from the estate of a deceased Forest Hills woman.

Beatrice Schacher-Meyer died and left the college’s Aaron Copland School of Music a hefty chunk of money from her estate.

But officials at the school only found out after they were contacted by an attorney handling Schacher-Meyer’s will in 2007.

“A huge weight lifted when I heard the news,” music department Director Edward Smaldone said in a statement. “State funding for public colleges has been declining, so this gift couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Not much is known about Schacher-Meyer, according to Smaldone. She was a musician herself, since she was a member of Local 802, a union. Smaldone said she believed she was a singer, and although she was likely an educated one, she did not attend Queens College.

But Smaldone envisioned her in the audience at Queens College performances.

“Quite possibly over the years she attended some performances here,” he said.

Schacher-Meyer’s donation is the largest single gift the department has received and will go toward scholarships for music students — to whom even modest amounts of money can make a huge difference, according to Smaldone.

Since the school charges more than $5,000 for undergraduate tuition, a $2,000 gift puts a huge dent in costs, according to Smaldone.

And by the close of the 2011 fall semester, about 150 students will have benefitted from the surprise donation.

In addition to scholarships, the money will also allow students to travel to China and England for professional engagements.

And to ensure that Schacher-Meyer is not forgotten anytime soon, the Black Box theater in the music building will be renamed after her.

Schacher-Meyer’s serendipitous gift is not limited to scholarships: Her donation enabled Queens College music students to travel to China and England this past summer.

Schacher-Meyer left her entire estate to music schools. After 80 percent was given to the college, she also left $400,000 to the Juilliard School, a highly regarded private Manhattan college specializing in dance, music and acting.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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