Private donations help enhance reputation of Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts at NSU


NATCHITOCHES – Seven faculty in the Mrs. H.D. Dear Sr. and Alice E. Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts at Northwestern State University have been able enhance the programs national and international profile due to private financial support provided to the School.

A $1 million endowed chair along with six $100,000 endowed professorships have allowed faculty to help improve their department, collaborate with colleagues around the world, gain valuable professional experience and provide opportunities for students. A portion of the interest generated by the endowed chair and endowed professorships help support NSU faculty and the remainder goes to enhance the endowment.

“I’m very fortunate to work with such hard working and gifted professors,” said Scott Burrell, director of the School of Creative and Performing Arts. “The endowed professorships allow our faculty to explore exciting opportunities in their areas of focus thereby providing enrichment to the University and Natchitoches communities.  As important, the professors bring what they have experienced into the classroom, providing our students valuable learning opportunities.”

Paula Furr, the Erbon and Marie Wise Endowed Chair in Journalism, worked closely with interim head of the Department of New Media, Journalism, and Communication Arts Brian Gabrial to enhance the program and has worked with a dual enrollment class at Pineville High School. She said some planned activities have been curtailed due to the Covid-19 virus.

“As the University’s first endowed $1 million chair, the Erbon and Marie Wise Endowed Chair in Journalism signifies the importance of preparing students for media careers,” said Furr. “The generous gift has allowed the department to bring in recognized professional and academic leaders in this field.”

Corbin Cohver was awarded the Derby Endowed Professorship, which rotates between art and music. He used the professorship to research one of the world’s premiere installation art collectives, Meow Wolf. the first permanent installation space in Santa Fe, New Mexico, known as The House of Eternal Return, last year.

“There isn’t anything like it. It is kind of like falling down the rabbit hole and visiting other worlds,” said Cohver, an assistant professor of sculpture and foundations and facilities manager.

The second part of his professorship was planned to be a visit to the opening of Meow Wolf’s new location, Area 15 in Las Vegas, but that was cancelled due to the Covid-19 virus. The last part is an installation based on Cohver’s research on NSU’s campus. Plans are to have the installation in Hanchey Gallery 2 this fall.

“My art practice varies a lot based on my mood. I paint, sculpt, do photography and design work as well as make furniture,” said Cohver. “What I am really interested in is installation art, using all the things I love to do in various ways to transform a space into an environment or manipulate a space to transport the viewer somewhere else. It is an honor to be awarded the Derby Endowed Professorship, it allowed me to research and experience something I would not have otherwise been able to do. It was a blessing.”

Professor of Horn Kristine Coreil used funds from the Magale Endowed Professorship to commission an original work for the natural horn by British composer Martin Ellerby and to apply for a performance slot at the 51st International Horn Symposium in Ghent, Belgium. Her proposal was accepted and Coreil performed the work for an international crowd of horn players and horn enthusiasts.  The funding also covered the technical recording of the bell of the USS Arizona, which tolls at the University of Arizona.

“The piece is an epitaph in memoriam of the sailors who lost their lives and remain entombed in the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor,” said Coreil. “The piece was composed for natural horn, piano and prerecorded ship’s bell.  The bell tolls throughout the piece and had to be audio engineered to toll in a sound loop with overtones.”

The composition was also performed in recital at Grambling State University and Northwestern State.

Funds from the Harris Endowed Professorship of Rhetoric and Debate held by Instructor of Journalism Elaine Eaton helped fund and facilitate the university’s debate team. The professorship paid for travel for the 10-person team to compete in tournaments in Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. The team was scheduled to compete in the International Public Debate Association Tournament which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus.

“Debate functions just like any other sport except it is an intellectual rather than physical sport,” said Eaton. “Therefore, the benefits are the same for students aside from the muscle being built is the brain. It is a different muscle but obviously useful for university students.

Team members enhance their speaking, research and interpersonal skills at each competition. We also have a strong sense of community and support between the members.”

Professor of Violin Andrej Kurti held the Alford Endowed Professorship and was able to record Paganini’s “24 Caprices for Solo Violin, Opus 1” for a new CD that was recorded last October in Magale Recital Hall by Dr. Sergei Kvitko of Blue Griffin Recording, a classical label based in Michigan.

“This project has been done by just a few violinists, and it is a very challenging and demanding masterpiece for any musical instrument,” said Kurti. “The process of preparation for such project required very hard work and dedication, which, I hope, resulted in pushing my limits as an artist-violinist-teacher to another level.”

Marcy McKee was able to use the Prince Voice Endowed Professorship to travel to Italy and perform in an opera.  She was cast as Mercedes in Bizet’s “Carmen” at the Rome Music Festival by an Italian director and singer via video with the recommendation of a conductor that she had previously worked with.  Musicians from Italy and United States performed weekly concerts, including a sacred concert in the Sant’Andrea della Valle known as the church from the opera “Tosca.”

“As a voice teacher and the director of opera at NSU, I need to keep up my performing skills and it is good to go see how others put together an opera,” said McKee, an assistant professor of voice. “Working with a conductor makes for a different point of view on musicality and being in Rome was also good for my Italian language skills.  Plus, being immersed in another culture is good for the spirit and creativity.”

Because of the Prince Music Endowed Professorship, Assistant Professor of Percussion/Music Education Oliver Molina helped fund a six-day tour by the Ninkasi Percussion Quartet, performing the percussion music of Marc Mellits, who is a faculty member at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is the subject of Molina’s doctoral dissertation. The tour included a performance at NSU.

“The professorship allowed me to give clinics and masterclasses at the schools of music on the tour along with the concerts,” said Molina. “I was able to network with fellow percussion colleagues and recruit students to hopefully come to NSU for graduate school.”

For more information on establishing an endowed professorship or providing other means of support for an academic program at Northwestern State, go to or call (318) 357-4414.