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Why I Give: Finding a family in the arts

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

“The arts are important to my soul.”

The arts have always been an important part of Barbara Nordling’s life. Her father was a basso profundo who sang locally, and she sang in many church and school choirs growing up, as well as a barbershop quartet while living in Hugoton.

It was after Nordling and her late husband, Bernie, retired in Lawrence in the late 1990s where there  “was a door that opened up the arts for me.”

Her first foray into the world of the creative arts at KU was as a member of the School of Fine Arts Advisory Board, on which she served for 24 years.

After her husband died in 2005, Nordling continued their tradition of supporting various areas across KU, including a dance scholarship for KU students from western Kansas.

“I enjoy mentoring the students and getting the chance to see them perform,” Nordling said. “It’s so fun getting acquainted with them and with their families, so they knew that someone in Lawrence cared about how they were doing at such a big place like KU.”

As Nordling’s admiration for the young dancers at KU grew, she recognized a need for special opportunities for young men who are aspiring dancers and created a scholarship specifically for them. This scholarship provides an opportunity not only for male dancers, but also for female dancers to gain experience in partnering. After all, “What is ballet without the wonderful men?,”  Nordling said.

Although Nordling’s generosity expands beyond the arts, she’s particularly fond of her arts scholars and the many opportunities she has to truly see them grow and perform.

“I feel like I am given so much more when I give to dance and music,” Nordling said. “It has given me a wonderful sense of having a family in the arts.”



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