By Kaylee Posey
This fall marks the 20th anniversary of Simpson College’s Workshops in Music Education – and there are plenty of reasons to celebrate.
Here’s a big one: A Simpson alumnus recently donated $40,000 to the music department.
Steve Horvath ’03 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music, but went on to work in the business world. He currently owns his own consulting business working with electronic medical software.
“I’m the guy who helps translate what the users need in terms of their daily work and what the systems can offer,” Horvath said. “It’s a good career path because healthcare is going to be around forever because of the existence of hospitals.”
He adds: “I have done well being an entrepreneur and I like to try to give back every year to various different causes, so I thought it was a good time to give back to Simpson.”
His financial gift was given in honor of Michael Patterson, professor of music, and in memory of the late Maria DiPalma, former chair of the Simpson music department. It is to be used to help fund the Workshops in Music Education.
“I was just stunned and extremely humbled,” Patterson said. “It’s just a very generous gift to the Music Department.”
Simpson President Jay Simmons echoed that, saying, “With this gift, Stephen Horvath has not only demonstrated his support for Simpson College, but also his commitment to ensuring that Simpson’s Music Education program offers students the strongest possible preparation for their careers. An already exemplary program now has the resources to enhance its efforts. All of us at Simpson are deeply grateful for his support for our work.”
The workshops, started by Patterson, are conducted to provide a beneficial learning experience for Simpson College students, and for elementary school teachers. The workshops allow for the teachers to earn continuing education credits in their field.
This is a rare opportunity for teachers in Music Education. Usually when trying to earn their continuing education credits, they end up taking a class that is unrelated to their field.
Each year two nationally recognized clinicians are invited to Simpson to conduct workshops in the field of music education. In 2012-13 the guests were Dr. John Feierabend and Dr. Leigh Ann Garner.
According to Patterson, “This gift of Stephen’s would cover fifty percent of the cost for this. So that’s really remarkable.”
This is not the first time Horvath has given back to Simpson. He was an active member of the fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha, and has donated money to them for scholarships.
“He chose to be generous with his alma mater and we were really thrilled about that,” Patterson said. “Maria would have been thrilled too.”
Horvath said he wanted to honor DiPalma’s memory because, “She was my vocal instructor all four years. She was a really great person and always made time for her students and tried to help people succeed.
“So did Dr. Patterson,” he added. “He’s also a very giving person. He participates in a lot of different things throughout the summer with DMMO (Des Moines Metro Opera) in addition to all his duties throughout the school year as well. So I thought it made sense to honor both of them with a gift.”
While at Simpson, Horvath took a composition class taught by Patterson. That led to his involvement in being Patterson’s copyist for the two operas Patterson wrote.
“He’s meticulous with his work, so I was always very grateful for that,” Patterson says. “He has always been someone who is self-motivated and knew what he was going after and was always a tenacious worker.”
Horvath said the skills he learned as a music major helped him, even though he knew as a student that he would eventually choose a career outside of music.
“Although it can be harder and maybe more challenging to convince people about certain skill sets that you have, what’s really important is doing what makes sense to you and what you believe in,” he said.
“You’ve got to do what you love doing. You can really do whatever you want in life. What’s on paper isn’t the whole truth.”
After doing so well for himself, what kind of advice does Horvath have for others?
“Follow your passion and do what you believe in and things will work out for you,” he said. “You’re not locked in to something because that’s what you chose to do in your undergraduate time in college.”
In addition, he says, “Get involved as much as you possibly can. You may work harder in college than you’ll ever work the rest of your life. And it’s worth it because you’ll never get that time back.”
Horvath is hoping that his gift will inspire others to contribute to the endowment. His goal is that the endowment will increase enough to provide future scholarships to music students.
The years since graduation haven’t changed one thing about Horvath, as Patterson explained: “He always went the extra mile.”
Horvath said Simpson taught him much more than music.
“I can make sense of the world,” he said. “I think that’s what college hopefully teaches a lot of folks is how to understand the world around them, how to work with people…That’s what I got from my experience at Simpson, both from the music department and from all my time with fraternal activities.”