Wills’ gift honors music faculty, blesses future students

Published by Olivia Dunklau 1 month ago on Mon, Oct 24, 2022 2:43 PM

Some things you know with certainty; others require a leap of faith.

When Paul Wills ’71 left the shores of Lake Erie and headed west toward the cornfields of Nebraska for college, he felt certain about several things: he intended to become a band director, he was going to miss his high school sweetheart, Patti, and his future was in God’s hands.

Everything else was uncertain. He had no idea what to expect at Concordia Teachers College, having enrolled without seeing even a photo of the campus. “All I had was a white booklet with the course offerings--that’s it,” he recalls. Nor did he know anything about the faculty that would leave an indelible mark on his life. Only in hindsight can he appreciate how his life was influenced by the leap of faith resulting in his first trip from Mentor, Ohio, to Seward, Nebraska.

Fifty-five years later, Paul and Patti, now a married couple for over 50 years, have plans to make their own mark on Concordia. In honor of two Concordia music faculty members who shaped Paul and countless other students, the Wills have established the Art Fliege and Charles Krutz Instrumental Music Scholarship Endowment. The perpetual endowment will provide financial support to future generations of Concordia music students.  

“I didn’t intend to go to Seward, but I’m thankful I did,” Paul says. He appreciates the blessing of learning under the tutelage of talented musicians like Fliege and Krutz, who also served as Christian mentors to him. “They put up with me, they didn’t give up on me, and they loved me—with a great deal of patience and grace.” Although Paul benefitted from good music instructors in his childhood, he acknowledges his Concordia professors offered something beyond good instruction. “It’s completely different, knowing they were also praying with and for me.”

Arthur Fliege working the controls of a tape recorder.
Arthur Fliege

From half a century ago, one experience with Professor Fliege remains etched in Paul’s memory. Early in his freshman year, Paul auditioned for the concert band. Because it was important to him, he arrived an hour early to warm up in a Music building practice room. When the moment came for him to play for Fliege in the audition room, he suddenly couldn’t play a note—any note—because of a failure with his clarinet and the audition ended inauspiciously. Thoroughly distraught, he could barely bring himself back to the Music building the next day to see who had been selected for the band. To his amazement, he found his name on the list—at first chair clarinet! He later learned that Professor Fliege heard him warming up in the less-than-soundproof practice room and, based on that, overlooked Paul’s actual audition performance. Inspired by Professor Fliege’s confidence in him, Paul maintained that first chair clarinet position until the day he graduated. 

He also appreciated the special ways Professor Charles Krutz prepared him for his future music ministry. “He saw something in me that caused him to prepare me in practical ways. That was a gift I received from the music faculty at Concordia.” Those opportunities included directing the student pep band at athletic games, moving pianos, tuning autoharps, and learning to repair instruments—all experiences that readied him for future band director roles at Baltimore Lutheran and Concordia Fort Wayne schools. “Those were useful skills,” Paul jokes, “because five minutes before every school band concert, a fourth-chair student musician appears and asks for help with a broken instrument.”

Charles Krutz smiling next to a small airplane while resting his hand on the propeller.
Charles Krutz

Paul enjoyed over 20 years of music ministry in Lutheran schools before transitioning to callings in gift planning with the LCMS Foundation and in marketing for Michigan District's CEF. When he and Patti recently updated their own estate plans, they recalled a planned giving principle that reflects their values of supporting both family and ministry. “Three kids and Jesus” is how Paul likes to describe it. Each of their three children will receive a portion of their estate; a fourth portion will go to ministries, including Concordia Nebraska, Baltimore Lutheran, and Concordia Fort Wayne.

While the Art Fliege and Charles Krutz Instrumental Music Scholarship Endowment will not be fully funded until Paul and Patti are in heaven, their gift’s legacy potential is powerful. They like the idea of having the gift placed in Concordia’s endowment, where its investment income will one day provide scholarship support for generations of music students. The original balance of the gift will remain intact, generating income each year for yet another student scholarship. “It’s the cow and the milk principle,” Paul explains. “Every year you have milk, but you keep the cow.”

The Wills hope their gift will inspire others to contribute to this instrumental music endowment or any of the 400+ endowments at Concordia, either through current gifts or through their estates. They still love music today and envision its impact on the future. “It’s one of the greatest gifts God has given us,” Paul says. “Music teachers, music therapists, music directors…perpetuating the gift of music through those kinds of Concordia graduates will bless the world” in fifty years, in a hundred years and beyond. It’s to those future student beneficiaries of the Wills’ endowment gift that Paul offers this message: “Listen and be aware. God has called you. Just be open and follow His will.”

To learn more about remembering both your family and your cherished ministries through a planned gift, contact Craig Stirtz at craig.stirtz@cune.edu. Craig, a gift planning counselor, serves as a free resource offered through Concordia University, Nebraska the LCMS Foundation and the Nebraska District LCMS.