Debra and Alan Spurgeon of Oxford, Mississippi, met in their college choir, and ever since choral music has been the focus of their life together.
The retired University of Mississippi music professors, who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on an Alaskan cruise, have made a $100,000 gift to the Ole Miss Department of Music, establishing a scholarship endowment specifically for choral music students.
Alan Spurgeon, who was the department’s graduate coordinator for 20 years and was instrumental in establishing the doctoral music program at Ole Miss, explained that he and his wife want their gift to continue the legacy they’ve loved for so long while helping Ole Miss attract the state’s most outstanding vocal performers.
“There’s just a real struggle to get the very best ones without being able to offer them scholarship resources, and it’s that way across the board in music,” agreed Debra Spurgeon, who taught music teacher education courses at Ole Miss for 18 years and was director of Women’s Glee. “It’s just like sports. You know, if someone’s good at what they do, everybody wants that person. Hopefully, this money will help provide a little more leverage with some of the students we’d really like to have.
“We’re doing this as a legacy because this is what we were involved with. We had 46 years of choral and music-related teaching, so making this gift to continue to support the music department and choral area seemed like the logical thing to do,” she continued.
UM Music Department Chair Nancy Maria Balach expressed her appreciation for the Spurgeons’ gift.
“Alan and Debra have meant so much to the Department of Music for many years, so I’m thrilled that they wanted to continue their influence at Ole Miss by making such a generous gift,” she said. “I greatly appreciate their vision to strengthen our choral music education program and help us attract and support the best students possible. When I learned of their gift, it was music to my ears!”
Prior to joining the UM music faculty in 2001, the Spurgeons taught at Southwestern Oklahoma State University for almost 20 years. Previously, she taught high school choir for seven years and he taught junior high music.
Both Missouri natives have undergraduate degrees from Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman University), master’s degrees from the University of Arkansas and doctorates from the University of Oklahoma.
“We’ve always been in choir,” Debra Spurgeon said. “Choir was the biggest influence on me. I went to college because of choir and wanted to be choir teacher. I’ve had very influential people in my life with respect to choir and music in general.”
Now, the Spurgeons hope their gift will serve as a similar influence to future Ole Miss vocal music education majors.
“The idea is that maybe this money will encourage a few really good students and maybe that will encourage others to consider Ole Miss for their education,” Debra Spurgeon said, adding that other state universities have been able to recruit top performers with similar offers. “We hope that being able to provide a scholarship will kind of sweeten our university’s offer a little bit.”
The Spurgeons said they miss the camaraderie of the Ole Miss faculty but have remained connected to the profession by serving on editorial boards for music-related publications. Both sing in the choir at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Oxford, and they enjoy gardening together.
Additionally, Alan Spurgeon is writing a book on British ballads, having conducted research for it in the Ozarks with two former UM graduate students.
The Drs. Alan and Debra Spurgeon Choral Music Education Scholarship Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations by mailing a check to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the endowment’s name noted in the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or click here.
For more information, contact Delia Childers, director of development for the College of Liberal Arts, at email@example.com or 662-915-3086.
By Bill Dabney/UM Foundation