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Gary Menges: Why I Give

June 11, 2024

Gary Menges started attending performances at Meany Center about the same time he started working at the University of Washington library 44 years ago. One of the first performances he remembers attending was the Philadelphia String Quartet. “They were called the Philadelphia String Quartet,” Gary says, “but actually they were based in Washington state.” 

Leave it to a librarian to have the facts. 

Gary was born in Iowa and attended Cornell College — “the other Cornell,” he clarifies, before eventually getting his Masters in library science from University of Michigan — and then his first library job at that other Cornell in Ithaca, New York. Starting in the undergraduate library, he moved next to a special assignment in the business library and then to the city planning library where he developed an interest in historical preservation. His career next took him to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and then the University of Texas, Austin, before he finally landed at the UW library in 1980 as Associate Director of Libraries for Public Services.

Gary’s love of music goes back to his high school years when he played in the band and sang in the choir. But his first exposure to professional musicians and classical music was at Cornell College, which had been hosting the annual May Music Festival since 1899. “The Chicago Symphony came to that festival every year for over 60 years,” Gary remembers. “In fact, they would end their season at Cornell College with two concerts. It was quite wonderful!” 

At the UW, he began attending Meany Center (then UW World Series) Chamber Series concerts in the 1980s with a friend who had a subscription. In 1990 Gary decided to subscribe to the Dance Series and invited his Chamber friend to attend those performances with him. The two continued hosting each other at their respective series for several years; when Gary’s friend moved away from Seattle, Gary took over his Chamber subscription. Gary retired in 2012, but he still subscribes to the Chamber and Dance Series, and he still has two tickets for each series — if he can’t find someone to be his guest, he donates the unused ticket back to Meany.

During a lifetime spent working at universities, Gary saw first-hand the important contributions non-academic experiences made to a young adult’s overall education. What a young person learned in the classroom was, of course, critical to their intellectual development; Travel and the arts, however, promoted students’ growth as fully well-rounded human beings: curious, empathetic and open-minded.

When he began estate planning, Gary decided to establish two endowments — one at his alma mater, Cornell College, and one at the University of Washington. 

At Cornell he established an endowment to support study abroad opportunities for students.

 Here at the UW, he gave his support to the arts through the  Gary L. Menges Endowment for Meany Dance & Chamber Music. 

“I’ve always hoped that chamber music and dance will continue for future generations,” Gary says, “so they can enjoy it as much as I have.”

Gary Menges’s generosity will help make sure of that.