Reflecting on his 12 years as dean of the Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts, Dean Marvin V. Curtis said, “It’s always been about the students. I wanted to create a place where students can learn and go on and do well in their fields.”
During his tenure as dean, Curtis has been a visionary leader, raising the stature of the school and its facilities to new heights. He’s also been a tireless volunteer and leader in the Michiana community.
Today the school is a much different place than when he arrived in 2008. “We needed change,” said Curtis. “We needed a good leader.”
Under his leadership, IU South Bend earned the All-Steinway School distinction last fall when the Raclin School of the Arts purchased the final two pianos needed to make at least 90% of the institution’s piano collection Steinway & Sons. IU South Bend is now one of the only Steinway Schools in Indiana (the other is Ball State University), making the institution one of only 212 colleges, universities, and conservatories throughout the world with this achievement.
In addition to the Steinway School designation, one of Curtis’s most visible accomplishments is the Louise E. Addicott & Yatish J. Joshi Performance Hall completed in 2014. Curtis secured funding for the $1.8 million performance hall through donations, including $1.2 million from the Georgina Joshi Foundation.
“We needed a place where students could cultivate their talent,” he explained, “and perform in a state-of-the art acoustical space.”
A dedicated champion and spokesperson for the school, Curtis has raised over $5.1 million in grants, external and internal funding and gifts throughout his tenure as dean.
To increase community awareness and highlight events and accomplishments of the Ernestine M. Raclin School of Arts, Curtis launched Aspire Magazine in 2009, an annual publication of the School of the Arts that received the Bronze Circle of Excellence Award from the Council of Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). “Before the magazine, people didn’t know we were here,” explained Curtis. “I wanted the public to know about the great things our students are doing and our outstanding performances and events.”
In addition to leading the School of Arts, Curtis also conducts the South Bend Symphonic Choir, which has performed two concerts at Carnegie Hall. “These were extraordinary experiences for me and the students who performed,” he said.
“Our students have done well,” Curtis commented. “When I first got here people didn’t know we were here. Now, I frequently hear, ‘Wow, what are you guys doing over there!’”
His investment in creating an outstanding student experience at the Ernestine M. Raclin School of Arts has led to a 25 percent increase in enrollment and tripled the graduation rate. “This year, we will graduate 80-90 students,” Curtis said. “When I arrived we only graduated 30-40.”
He has also forged lasting relationships between IU South Bend and the community. Curtis serves on numerous boards, including the South Bend Youth Symphony, the Stickley Piano Foundation and the Morris Performing Arts Center. He sits on the IU South Bend Symphony board, which led to partnership to establish the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Concerts.
The school also created the annual Teddy Bear Concert during the Christmas holiday, collecting 300 teddy bears in 2019 for donations to various community organizations. In addition, the first IU Jazz Fest was created in 2019.
“I’m leaving on a high note,” Curtis said with a smile. “The school is a good place,”