Longtime musicians Erwin and Barbara Mueller could have traveled the world or bought many treasures with their earnings, but the Ball State alumni decided to go with the beat of their hearts and the rhythm of their souls.
With a pledge of $1 million to Ball State Bold, the couple has established a permanent endowment providing freshman merit scholarships for music education majors at Ball State. The Muellers most recent gift follows the creation of the Barbara D. and Erwin C. Mueller Percussion Scholarship and the Percussion Emergency Fund, which creates graduate assistantships and mitigates student financial hardships.
“It was a little bit of a surprise that we were able to do that,” Barbara says about the endowment. “We thought about the best place it can go. Scholarships are always important."
The two have been around music most of their lives. Erwin is an accomplished percussionist and professor in Ball State’s School of Music, where he teaches studio percussion and directs the Ball State Percussion and Marimba Ensembles. Barbara was a piano major while at Ball State and taught chorale music for about 20 years.
“Music education is dwindling in the schools, and we hope we can encourage a lot of young people to go into it,” she says.
The Muellers say their time at Ball State gave them their musical foundation.
“Where else would we go?” Barbara says, to which Erwin adds, “Ball State is where we’ve been.”
For their dedication to the university, the lobby of the Music Instruction Building was renamed the Barbara D. and Erwin C. Mueller Lobby.
When the Muellers were going to school in the 1950s, tuition was about $90 a year, and even then, it was difficult for their families to afford. They realize that money is scarce now, which means some students have trouble getting funding.
“We both feel like it’s a real privilege to be able to do this,” Barbara says.
The scholarship is for freshmen, but it will be renewable during the course of their studies at Ball State. Erwin says he hopes some talented students with a passion for music will apply.
“We expect that person to be an elite student,” he says.
President Jo Ann M. Gora says the Muellers' gift is an expression of their care and concern for students.
"The center of their lives has been the effect they have had on hundreds of Ball State students," Gora says. "Erwin is one of those passionate professors who bring learning to life each day, and Barbara shares his passion to teach and mentor the students of this university. You don't have to spend much time with the Muellers before they are talking about the many times they have had 'their kids' over to the house for dinner or to chat after a performance."
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