A long way from IU South Bend, an unlikely couple recently decided to give $500,000 to endow a scholarship to support undergraduate students enrolled in the Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts.
From Tourves, France, William J. Stoner and James B. Lovell contacted IU South Bend to establish a scholarship in memory of Stoner’s late partner, Shaun Charles McGee. Stoner was born and raised in South Bend, but otherwise, the couple have no direct ties to the campus.
Why IU South Bend? In his early working years, Stoner was a reporter for the South Bend Tribune. He covered some of the campus’s early theatre and music productions before he left South Bend in 1974 to accept a reporter position at the Kansas City Star. He met McGee while he was living in Kansas City.
Even after many years living away from the area, Stoner knew scholarship support would make a difference to the students who attended the IU regional campus in his hometown. When Stoner and his husband, Jim Lovell, visited the campus in fall 2017, Stoner was astounded to see how IU South Bend had grown over the years, and they were both impressed by the level of excellence the university had achieved in the arts.
Stoner and Lovell, who retired after 31 years working as an elementary music teacher in Plano, Tex., are avid enthusiasts and supporters of the arts. In fact, a few years ago they traveled from their home in the south of France, where they moved in 2011, just to attend the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas.
Stoner’s late partner McGee studied voice and drama in The Julliard School in New York. Not a fan of living and working in New York City, McGee became a flight attendant for TWA, and later American Airlines. A model flight attendant, McGee was asked to train new- hire flight attendants at American Airline’s training facility in Dallas. “He sang boldly, a cappella, on pitch, arms spread wide, to his students as they laughed and cried during their rigorous training,” said Stoner. Later in his career, Stoner also joined McGee in Dallas and worked as an American Airlines flight attendant.
A scholarship to support students studying the arts is a cause close to Stoner's and Lovell’s hearts. “We do not have any children, and a scholarship is a way for me pass on the privilege I received from my father, who sent all eight of his children through college,” explained Lovell. Stoner added, “It’s a way to honor Shaun, who changed who I am, and Jim, my wonderful husband. They both have inspired so many people over the years.”
The couple were delighted to learn that the IU Foundation would also match their generous gift, providing even more scholarships for students. “It’s phenomenal to see how much the scholarship is worth after the match,”said Stoner, “especially if you see how humbly we live here in France.”
They are excited they chose to endow a scholarship at IU South Bend’s Raclin School. “We were inspired by the campus administration, the students, and the faculty all working together to ensure students achieve their dreams of a college education,” said Stoner. “It is wonderful place to put this money. And it will be a permanent, lasting gift that will continue to support students long after we are gone.”