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$7.5 million gift for Wayne State jazz center

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Posted at 5:56 PM, Dec 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-14 17:56:08-05

The vibe inside Hilberry Theatre was jazzy Monday afternoon. Thanks to a $7.5 million gift, the theatre on Wayne State University's campus will become a center of the international jazz world. 

"The Gretchen Valade Jazz Center will be remodeled to accommodate jazz acoustics, host an array of high profile concerts and serve as an educational hub for Wayne State's students and faculty," said M. Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State.

Valade is heiress to the Carhartt clothing fortune and a jazz lover. She saved the Detroit Jazz Festival after the Labor Day event lost its main financial backing in 2005. This gift will serve as a centerpiece to the University's Hilberry Gateway Project.

"She loves jazz, she loves Detroit and the generosity she has shown in supporting these great passions is second to none," Wilson said in publicly announcing the gift. 

Valade, who is 90, was ill and unable to attend today's announcement.  

"She sees the benefit that the musicians get," said Tom Robinson, her lawyer and business partner who represented her at the event. "She has a hard time grasping just how powerful these gifts are but whenever she hears the musicians performing and hears the comments that they have about how grateful they area, that always inspires her," he said.

Valade is also providing teaching and research support as well as an endowed scholarship for students pursuing degrees in jazz studies at Wayne State.