Cynthia Shaw Simonoff

Scholarship Recipient Gives Back to Future Generations of DU Students

Cynthia Shaw Simonoff

Written 11-10-2011

How did your experience at DU benefit you after graduation?

I came to NY immediately upon graduation and actually missed commencement. I think the combination of being introduced to big city, cosmopolitan students as well as being nurtured in a small music department helped me to adjust to the complicated, and oftentimes overwhelming life of the city. My DU piano teacher, Mr. Aybar, had grown up in New York and studied with Dora Zaslovsky at The Manhattan School of Music. So it was to her that I went to continue my piano studies. There I met a whole network of pianists who became my friends. Dora held weekly piano and dinner soirees in her Central Park West apartment. Not only did I get to play in front of colleagues, but well-known piano students of hers would pop in and perform as well. We all went to every piano recital we could at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

Did you receive a scholarship and/or did you have a job while going to school?

Yes. I had an accompanying grant, a scholarship from the Methodist Church (to which I belonged) and a couple of other scholarships. I could not have afforded DU without this financial aid. I also worked as a housekeeper for a wealthy family in Cherry Hills and eventually worked about 20 hours a week as a sales clerk in the linen department at the May D&F in University Hills.

What has motivated you to "give back" to DU?

My husband and I were putting our Wills together and discovered, because we do not have children, that after giving set amounts to various family member and charities, there was still a residual amount left. Our lawyer suggested we find one place to put this amount. I had already been approached by Joseph McKay about leaving money in my estate for DU which would be matched, doubling my contribution. I had already done this. But now there was the residual to earmark. I had originally thought of leaving this money to my Pueblo high school alumni association for music and theatre scholarships, but they had only recently formed a 501(c)3 and were in no way experienced enough to deal with a large sum of money. Then I thought of DU and the scholarships I had received there as a student. Through discussions with Joe, found that not only would the school match my contribution, but that student scholarships could be made immediately. I was thrilled. It is so wonderful to know that I am able to give students who are like me, talented, but not able to afford private school tuition, the ability to afford going to a top-notch college. I am so happy that I am able to help a young person start their life with solid schooling by helping to make college affordable.

What is your hope for your scholarships and its student recipients?

I hope that the scholarships will allow talented Pueblo music and theatre students to attend DU.

What would you tell other potential donors about making a bequest like yours?

I would like to tell them that never in my life did I dream that I could make this kind of contribution to a young person. I have always been the struggling artist, my husband a high school math teacher, and so we never thought of ourselves as a rich people. But because we own an apartment and have no children to leave our estate, we will be able to make a difference in a young person's life, just as others made a difference in our lives through grants and scholarships: people we didn't even know. Joe McKay at DU made the working out of the details so pleasant and easy. And every question my lawyer and I had about the residual estate and scholarships was honestly answered to our satisfaction. I would encourage anyone who has a similar background to ours to contact the estate planning office at DU and find out what the possibilities are. I think it is really a miracle.