Professor Emeritus of Health Sciences Cliff Houk honors his wife, Evelyn, with an endowed scholarship in her name.

Photographer: Jacquelin Weber

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OHIO Alumnus and faculty emeritus surprises wife with scholarship in her honor

Wondering what to get a loved one for his or her birthday or Valentine’s Day this year? How about an endowed scholarship in their name?

That is exactly what two-time OHIO alumnus and Professor Emeritus of Health Sciences Cliff Houk did to honor his wife, Evelyn, after 58 years of marriage.

This past fall, Cliff took Evelyn, an avid trombone enthusiast, to OHIO’s School of Music fall trombone choir recital for her birthday. During the concert, Cliff surprised the entire audience when he announced a birthday gift made in her honor: the Evelyn L. Houk Trombone "Choir" Scholarship.

"Dr. Chris Hayes called us up on stage, and I had no idea what was going on," Evelyn said. "Tears just flowed and I was completely shocked, to say the least. The trombone choir played happy birthday to me. I found out later that the planning had been going on for six weeks. The trombone choir is very dear to me. I have been playing my trombone for many years. At one time I played in the University band and now I play in the summer band concerts under the elms and the low brass choir at my church."

Jacquelin Weber, OHIO’s director of donor recognition and stewardship events, helped Cliff keep the scholarship a secret.

“I’ve known Cliff for many years both personally and professionally; I was excited when he came to me with this special idea of how he wanted to honor Evelyn with a gift endowing a scholarship in her name,” Jacquelin said. “It was a pleasure to work together to bring this vision to fruition and watch as Cliff surprised Evelyn with this unique gift on stage in front of a full house last fall.”

The scholarship will be used to support an OHIO student studying trombone in their junior or senior year, and allows for one year of renewability.

“Providing support for an endowed scholarship is one of the best ways to leave a legacy at Ohio University,” said Julie Zdanowicz, director of development for the College of Fine Arts. “Endowments continue in perpetuity similar to Cliff’s love of Evelyn, an everlasting gift to the arts and community in which they live.”

The Houks long history of giving to OHIO began 50 years ago with a $10 cash gift. Over the years, they have supported a wide variety of units and initiatives including, among others, the College of Fine Arts, the Ohio Bobcat Club, the Marching 110, Student Affairs’ Artist Series, Men’s Baseball and Men’s Golf.

Cliff, who founded OHIO’s industrial hygiene program, established the Houk Industrial Hygiene Scholarship in the College of Health Sciences and Professions in 2002. The recipient is selected on the basis of academic merit, financial need and demonstrated involvement in extracurricular activities including the Ohio University Industrial Hygiene Student Association and volunteer service organizations.

According to staff in OHIO’s Division of Advancement, gifts made in honor or in memory of a friend or loved one are becoming increasingly popular.

“These types of gifts celebrate the unique relationships that people have with Ohio University, whether it’s a favorite professor, loved one, student or friend” said Jennifer Bowie, executive director of development. “So many of our alumni and friends have been touched by the promise of OHIO, and gifts in honor or memory pay tribute to that special connection while also helping to support OHIO students and programs.”