Former ECU faculty member gives surprise $5.2 million to School of Music

Published 3:11 pm Monday, April 12, 2021

GREENVILLE — A former East Carolina University faculty member left the university a multi-million-dollar gift in her will that will support School of Music scholarships.

Beatrice “Bea” Chauncey came to the university in 1949 and spent 41 years as a flute instructor, helping grow the small music department into one of the premier music schools in the Southeast.

Her dedication to the program was so steadfast that in 2011, she committed a $500,000 planned gift to the school. At the time, it was the biggest gift ever promised by a faculty member at the university.

When Chauncey died on April 2, 2017, at age 94, her gift turned out to be much, much more than expected. Her already generous sum was actually an eye-popping $5.2 million. Due to the complexity of her estate, the distribution process began in 2020.

“The School of Music is one of the many outstanding parts of this university. Bea Chauncey’s dedication as a faculty member and generosity as a donor will leave a legacy at ECU that will certainly change the competitive landscape for music here. We will be forever grateful for her many contributions to our mission and to the long-term success of our institution,” Chancellor Philip Rogers said.

The $5.2 million gift, a portion of which was counted in the total for Pirate Nation Gives, ECU’s annual day of giving, will double the amount of scholarship money the School of Music can award.

“That doubles our ability to attract students. It will allow us to expand our recruiting area,” School of Music Director Chris Ulffers said.

In addition to her love for music, Chauncey’s hobby was making stock market investments. She became an extremely shrewd investor and would proudly show friends the room in her house dedicated to her trading research.

When she set up her will, the gift to ECU was conservative because she didn’t want to overpromise in case of potential market fluctuations or end-of-life costs, said Greg Abeyounis, senior associate vice chancellor for development.

“As Bea grew older, there was a great amount of market growth that significantly compounded the generosity of this donation,” he said.

Chris Buddo, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication, said there were many places Chauncey, a native of Akron, Ohio, could have given her money. “Because she loved the school and the people that were in the school, that’s where she wanted to see her money go,” he said. “She really helped put the School of Music on the map, and this will keep it on the map — for a long time.”