Jon Kellis, who was a percussionist and doctoral student in the College of Music, died in 1999 after being struck by a car while crossing the street -- but his life will be celebrated for years to come thanks to a generous donation in his memory. An anonymous donor has pledged a $1.5 million planned gift to the college to honor the former steel drum musician, who was awarded a doctoral degree posthumously in 1999. With matching grants, the gift is expected to more than double to potentially $4.1 million and establish an endowed faculty position, the Jon Kellis Chair in Percussion. Additionally, the "Jon Kellis Steel Drum Room" in the Music Building was dedicated in November.
UNT friends and faculty who knew him say it's a fitting way to pay tribute to Kellis' magnetic personality, constant smile and willingness to assist others in music and in their personal lives.
"Ultimately, he became the teacher," says Regents Professor Robert Schietroma, who led the percussion area at UNT from 1977 to 1999. "Jon didn't have enough life to grow up, but although he is gone, there is a little bit of Jon in everyone who knew him."