Ruby Morgan Sparkles as Three New Steinways arrive at Furman University

GREENVILLE, SC – One of the first Steinways ever played by Dr. Ruby Morgan still occupies a practice room at Furman University, where she has devoted much of her life enriching the lives of her students. When she was 14, Ruby’s parents purchased a Model M studio grand that inspired a robust professional career, both as teacher and performer. She studied at The Juilliard School and Florida State University, concertizing as a critically-acclaimed soloist and chamber musician.

Ruby Morgan
Derek Parsons, professor of piano, enjoys playing the new Steinway Model B in his teaching studio

Technically retired, Ruby’s mission is seeing her beloved institution equipped with as many as 50 of the latest Steinways. “Furman has enjoyed a reputation of being an outstanding liberal arts school and when students come to visit from around the country, they find a remarkable environment,” she said. “We have a professional-grade music program, but to be honest, we have not had new pianos since the ‘70s. So from that perspective, we are going to offer instruments that will represent the best possibilities for our students. We chose Steinways because they are simply the best.”

Most of the grand pianos in studios and classrooms date to the origins of the Daniel Music Building in 1975. While raising $2.5 million for the All-Steinway initiative is ambitious, “it really is time for us to make this commitment,” she said. “I felt like we needed to do it the right way instead of using the Band-Aid approach like we have been doing.”

Lisa Lee Rust and Kenneth Rust, devotees of the arts with the Furman's new Steinway Model D concert grand piano.

Ruby and her husband, retired Furman professor of philosophy Dr. Doug MacDonald, provided the initial gift to “Pianos for Paladins.”  Her protégée, alumna Lisa Lee Rust and husband Kenneth Rust made a most generous gesture by funding a nine-foot Steinway Model D concert grand. Keith Plumley at Case Brothers of Spartanburg delivered the 990-pound handcrafted masterpiece to Daniel Recital Hall in July, along with two superb seven-foot Model B grands.

“Ruby has been a tireless and relentless warrior in the pursuit of the Steinway initiative,” said Dr. Derek Parsons, professor of piano. “She has been on the front-end of these explorations for many years and was particularly determined to make this dream a reality while she was still on the faculty.  These three instruments – all handpicked from the Steinway Selection Room in New York – are the first tangible fruits of her efforts.”

“The Furman community will be treated to the finest instruments... It’s a great sign of Furman’s commitment to excellence going forward.”

Furman nurtured many outstanding piano majors through the decades including the late Richard Cass, concert pianist and esteemed teacher; Robert Blocker, Dean of the Yale School of Music; Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops and Mary-Mitchell Campbell, multitalented Broadway musical director.

This is what Dr. Blocker, who also sits on Furman’s Board of Trustees, had to say: “Generations of Furman music students have been enriched by Professor Ruby Morgan’s passion for music and her inspired teaching. Her distinctive musical voice was shaped by the incomparable Steinway sound, and her extraordinary philanthropy ensures that Furman will have Steinway pianos as a continued legacy of its musical endeavors.”

“The Steinway name is synonymous with the most prestigious artists and programs in the world,” added Dr. Parsons. ‘The Furman community will be treated to the finest instruments for study and performance for years to come. It’s a great sign of Furman’s commitment to excellence going forward.”

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