Alumna’s gift strikes a chord with UNK string quartet

Robb Crouch
director of public relations, University of Nebraska Foundation; Office 402.458.1142; Mobile, 402.304.3085;

A Kearney State College alumna strikes a chord with the string quartet at the University of Nebraska at Kearney by recently donating $200,000.

Mary Elaine (Thornton) House of Rockwall, Texas, established an endowment in her family’s name at the University of Nebraska Foundation to provide four annual Thornton String Quartet Scholarships. The fund also provides support to help defray the string quartet’s expenses.

House, a 1940 graduate of music performance, and her husband, Robert, former chair of the music department from 1950-55, share music backgrounds and wanted to create something that benefits music and performing arts.

“We realized immediately how a string quartet of talented musicians enrolled with generous scholarships could be beneficial to UNK,” she said. “Their campus appearances, performances in regional schools and addition to the Kearney Area Symphony Orchestra were all very worthy objectives.”

“It pleases me to be able to make this gift to UNK, which is not only a memorial to the Thornton family, but has the potential for assisting with the growth and quality of the programs offered at the university,” House said.

Ron Crocker, chair of the UNK Department of Music and Performing Arts, said, “The Thornton String Quartet Scholarship Fund is very important to the future of string performance at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and to string education throughout the state.”

“It is essential that the rich heritage of string ensemble and orchestra performances be sustained at the highest levels possible,” he said. “The Thornton String Quartet scholarships will help achieve that goal.”

The Thornton family moved to Kearney in 1928, when the Chamber of Commerce hired House’s father. Over the years, the entire Thornton family promoted the city and its college.

The University of Nebraska Foundation is a nonprofit corporation supplementing support for students, faculty, facilities and programs at the University of Nebraska’s four campuses through gifts from alumni, friends, corporations and other foundations.