GREENVILLE — Byron and Dolores (Dee) Cook have always had a passion for music and the performing arts, and that passion was something they shared together when they first met as students at Michigan State University.
Byron marched as a member of the Spartan Marching Band and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from MSU, while Dolores earned a degree in television and communication and later went on to serve for 16 years as a member of the MSU Board of Trustees.
Their ties to the university are many and great in nature, and as of today, a new facility on the college campus has been named in their honor after a generous donation from the couple helped pay for its remodeling.
The Byron and Dolores Cook Recital Hall, formerly known as the Music Building Auditorium and located within MSU’s Music Building, was dedicated Friday night during a private concert.
The dedication honors Byron And Dolores, who were the lead donors to the $5 million renovation project.
The venue has served as the heart of performance life in the College of Music for more than 70 years and Dolores said she could hardly contain her excitement when she previewed the remodeled facility two weeks ago.
“I almost fainted when I walked in there,” Dolores said. “It’s the most breathtaking thing you’ve ever seen. The transformation of that room is just unreal and it is going to be one of the finest recital halls in the country.”
According to the MSU College of Music, construction began on the auditorium at the end of the spring semester of 2012 in order to bring the space in line with the professional performance standards of the twenty-first century. Plans developed by a national team of architects and acousticians envision an environment that will significantly enhance the quality of the listening experience and deliver greater comfort and additional amenities to patrons.
“It’s an enormous step for the college,” Dolores said, “Byron and I are just thrilled to be a part of that step. I just invite everybody to come and share the joy of the performances and share the beauty of this brand new facility. Through their extraordinary performances, the students and faculty of the College of Music provide a window to the quality of the whole university.”
James Forger, dean of the College of Music, stressed the importance of the Cooks’ donation to the college of music.
“It shows what a difference two individuals can make,” Forger said, “because this sort of thing does not happen unless there are people that are willing to step up and say ‘this is important,’ and provide financial leadership. Two people in this instance — Dee and Byron Cook — have made a tremendous difference that will serve generations of students.”
The extensive renovation includes new seating, acoustical treatments, the installation of air conditioning and improved heating and ventilation systems, state-of-the-art audio/visual capabilities, new lighting and warm wood finishes throughout.
Dolores said she and Byron thought long and hard about where to give their donation gift to the university, but in the end the answer seemed easy.
“Both of us have a love for music and it has been a part of our life since we met as students at MSU,” she said. “We were told by Forger that other than a new building, the college of music desperately needed a new recital hall, so we decided to make our gift for the recital hall in the college of music.”
Upon hearing that the hall would be named in their honor, Dolores said she and Byron were left “speechless.”
“Byron and I never expected the result of our gift, a seed gift for a new building for the college, would result in this honor and this kind of marvelous recital hall,” she said. “It is very humbling. There is no way ever that my husband and I dreamed as students that this would happen in our lifetime. We’re both very proud to be Spartans.”