University News

Strongs' Gift Steinway Piano to Center for Performing Arts

May 29, 2014

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MACOMB, IL -- According to the official Steinway and Sons website, Steinway builds pianos one at a time, using skills that were handed down from master to apprentice over many generations. It takes almost one year to create a Steinway grand piano. Each piano contains more than 12,000 parts and is uniquely different. The process is never hurried. The company's goal is to build the world's finest piano; a product that produces superior sound and responsive touch, that attracts the most demanding pianists.

"I first became interested in Steinway the company a number of years ago based on an investment recommendation by Goldman Sachs. I remember when I first purchased the stock that I stayed up half the night reading their latest SEC filings on the Internet. The company was so small it was relatively easy to understand the financial statements. My interest in the company continued through the years and I continued to add to our holdings when I felt that they represented value," said Herb Strong, former president and CEO of MidAmerican National Bank. "Nancy and I even visited a Steinway showroom in Naples, Florida. I guess we wanted to see first hand what is believed to be the finest piano in the world. The company has changed ownership over the years, but the pride and quality that has gone into the product has stayed with the name.

"When it became apparent that the company would once again be for sale and taken private, we decided to transfer the shares to the WIU Foundation," Herb continued. "We requested that the proceeds be used for the purchase of a Concert Grand Piano upon the completion of the new Center for the Performing Arts. It is our hope that an instrument that produces superior sound will inspire Western students."

Gov. Pat Quinn announced April 23 the release of $60 million for the construction of the Center for Performing Arts. The Center for Performing Arts, which will support the academic mission and programs in the College of Fine Arts and Communication, will include a 1,400-seat proscenium theatre auditorium with two balconies, a 250-seat thrust stage and a 150-seat studio theatre.

"This is about artistry. The artistry of this gift feeds the artistry of craftsmanship poured into creating an instrument like a Steinway, which directly feeds the artistry of music and life," said Billy Clow, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication. "This gift from Herb and Nancy provides a legacy that will educate and entertain for years to come."

Herb is a 1972 finance graduate of WIU, and in 2009, he received the Alumni Achievement Award. Herb and Nancy have been involved with the Performing Arts Society for many years (Herb served as president in 2007 and 2008).

"I would never have held on to the stock this long if it had not been for the learning experience and the quality of the product," Herb stated. "Nancy and I wanted to do something special for the University and for the Center for Performing Arts. This is a good fit with our interest in the arts, and the timing worked out perfectly. I hope it inspires WIU students to become better musicians."

Posted By: Julie Murphy, WIU Foundation (
Office of University Relations