University of Delaware
UD President Patrick Harker presents Marichu Valencia and Donald Puglisi with the 2013 President’s Award for Philanthropic Commitment at the May 9 Celebration of Scholarship event.

Music receives major gift

Former faculty member and spouse make second major gift in support of UD Department of Music


4 p.m., Aug. 20, 2013--The University of Delaware has received a generous commitment of $1 million in support of the Department of Music from Donald J. Puglisi, MBNA America Professor Emeritus of Business, and his wife, Marichu Valencia. At the request of the donors, the University will use the gift to establish a giving challenge as an incentive for others to invest in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Music.

“We are again extremely grateful for Don and Marichu's generosity and support for one of our hallmark programs,” says George Watson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Their gift represents a continued and meaningful investment in our quality education and performance programs, the impact of which will be felt by our students and the surrounding community for decades to come.”

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This is Puglisi’s and Valencia’s second million dollar gift in support of the Department of Music. Their first gift, made in November 2010, established the Donald J. Puglisi Music Enrichment Fund, which provides resources for a variety of uses including undergraduate scholarships, student ensembles, visiting professors, guest artists and instruments.  

The couple’s latest gift will be used to establish the Puglisi Challenge, designed to encourage donors’ commitments and bolster their impact by matching their individual gifts with Puglisi funds. During the Challenge, new commitments of $25,000 to $1 million designated to any allocation within the Department of Music will receive a 1:1 match, and the donor will be recognized at the total match level. Donations from individuals and family foundations are eligible for the Puglisi Challenge; however, gifts from other foundations and corporate matching programs do not qualify for this challenge match. Corporate donations will be reviewed and matched on a case by case basis. The challenge, which began on July 1, will run until June 30, 2016, or as long as sufficient matching funds remain.

Paul Head, Department of Music chair and Unidel Professor of Music, has witnessed the transformative effect that Puglisi and Valencia’s previous contributions have had on the department and is excited by the opportunities that will arise from the gifts generated by the Puglisi Challenge.  

"Don and Marichu’s remarkable generosity has had a profound and sustained impact on the Department of Music -- faculty and students alike,” says Head. “Their financial support has allowed us to address serious and immediate challenges, such as upgrading our media service operations to give students and faculty easier access to the department’s vast array of music-related resources. All the while, the endowment continues to grow, providing funds for our students and faculty to travel domestically and abroad, which is already paying dividends in terms of national and international visibility. The implications of such flexibility for recruitment, networking and faculty retention are infinite!"

As a beloved faculty member in UD’s Department of Finance from 1971 through his retirement in 2001, Puglisi mentored and inspired countless students. Though the Department of Music is clearly a philanthropic priority, Puglisi and his wife have a long history as generous benefactors to multiple areas at UD, including undergraduate scholarships, athletics, the Lerner College of Business and Economics, the performing arts and the University Museums. The couple was honored in May with the 2013 President’s Award for Philanthropic Commitment, a recognition given annually by University President Patrick Harker to acknowledge a donor or donor family whose scholarship support has had a significant impact on UD and its undergraduates. 

Puglisi has a unique perspective on the couple’s generosity.  

“I view each gift to the University as an investment,” says Puglisi. “I choose my investments carefully and expect them to be sound. Our previous gifts to the Department of Music proved to be extremely wise investments, the returns of which can be seen in the many accomplishments of the musicians and ensembles that benefit from these funds.”

Some of the Department of Music’s accomplishments in recent years have been the recruitment of world-renowned faculty members, including violinist and Trustees Distinguished Professor of Music Xiang Gao, and the international success UD ensembles have experienced overseas. For example, the Chorale placed second at the Béla Bartók International Choir Competition in Hungary in 2012, and most recently, the Symphony Orchestra completed its first invitational tour in Bogota, Colombia in May.

According to Puglisi, making an additional commitment to the Department of Music was an easy decision. 

“When an investment is performing well, you should consider adding to it, and that’s what Marichu and I are doing here,” he says.

Puglisi and Valencia hope that their most recent gift can serve as an inspiration to other potential donors.

“Music is truly an international language and something that has been an important part of the life Donald and I have created together,” says Valencia. “Gifts to the Department of Music don’t just support the students who participate in music courses and ensembles; they also support the local community by infusing it with the cultural richness that can only be provided by access to the performing arts. There is an inherent value in such programs that warrants community support. Donald and I are grateful to have this opportunity to incentivize others to give to this worthwhile program.”

For more information or to make a gift to the Puglisi Challenge, please contact Stacey Muzzi at 302-831-0764 or


Article by Shannon Pote

Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

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