Published: Dec. 1, 2016 By

bob charles endowment dinner dean and the charles pose

Dean Robert Shay, Gary Lewis, Bob Charles, Judy Charles and Chancellor Philip DiStefano pose at a dinner to announce Lewis as the new Bob and Judy Charles Endowed Chair in Music.

Bob Charles isn’t a professional musician. He played euphonium in high school and college band, but his life has taken him on a different journey in the decades since.

Still, like so many people, he can’t imagine a life without music.

“I always have music going in my car,” Charles laughs. “Some people listen to talk radio—I listen to [local radio station] 97.3. Stillness is great, but music enriches every moment.

“The world can’t function without some element of music.”

The longtime McDonald’s franchise owner says that’s why he and his wife Judy have always supported the College of Music in any way they can. Whether it’s starting the Adopt-a-Student Program, being tireless local advocates of the college, or now, naming a new recipient of the Bob and Judy Charles Endowed Chair in Music.

Originally endowed in the 1990s and given to beloved director of bands Allan McMurray, Charles says the chair is meant to celebrate and thank the outstanding music faculty at CU Boulder.

“I had been on the advisory board for 10 or 15 years when [Dean Emeritus] Dan Sher and I were talking about how to get more financial support for the college’s faculty. I was in band through college, so Judy and I decided to endow a chair for Allan.

“He loved the idea and over the years we became good friends—going to dinner, playing golf—and we still talk.”

When McMurray retired in 2013, the chair position went unfilled for three years until Dean Robert Shay and Charles set their sights on renewing it.

“I spoke to Alan about it and he and I both thought that it would be appropriate to pass the chair along to [Director of Orchestras] Gary Lewis.”

Just like McMurray, Lewis is a conductor, which Charles says is important to him and his wife. He’s also admired and respected in the music world and by his peers at the college.

“The faculty was very supportive of the decision,” Charles says. “Gary and I have gotten better acquainted since then… we even played a round of golf two days after we met.”

“I look forward to getting to know them even better,” says Lewis. “I’m so fascinated and impressed by the great work they’ve done, and continue to do, for this community."

The importance of singing the praises of the College of Music—on a campus known for its research and scientific endeavors—has never been lost on Charles, who himself started his career in agriculture.

“I’ve always felt that despite its high quality, the College of Music has always been this little light under the bush. I want to do everything I can to help bring recognition to the college.”

And that starts with the college’s faculty.

“The faculty works so hard to help students. Whatever they need, whenever they need it, the faculty helps out. You don’t get that level of commitment and interest everywhere, and that drives me to want to do everything I can to help them,” Charles says.

In the case of his achievement, Lewis says it’s hard to ignore the team effort of this music community. “Any time a conductor is recognized it’s because a whole lot of other people are doing a great job—the musicians, the faculty, the administration, the marketing department. So while I’m gratified, it’s important to recognize the work of others as well.”

Which is why Bob and Judy Charles will go on being some of the biggest cheerleaders the college has in the community.

“I always want to toot our horn, so to speak,” Charles chuckles. “I’m really pleased with Dean Shay’s vision for the college and the life he’s pumped into it. The exposure our kids and the college get at events like the Carnegie Hall concert helps us attract better students, which in turn attracts better faculty. One supports the other.”

“People like Bob and Judy allow us do what we do,” Lewis adds. “Their support gives us the freedom financially and otherwise to pursue our mission and our passion as a college and as artists. It’s invaluable.”

Visit the Giving page for information on how you can support music at the University of Colorado Boulder.