Jazz aficionado creates scholarship for underrepresented students in fine arts

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Grace Merritt

3 min read

Ron Ancrum ’72 SFA has fond memories of playing trumpet in the marching band, performing in campus jazz bands, and composing songs for the gospel choir during a lively, politically active time on UConn’s campus.

Now, after a successful career leading college admissions departments and philanthropic foundations, he’s giving back to the place where he got his start. He and his wife, Pamela, a retired TV news anchor, have started a scholarship to support underrepresented students at UConn’s School of Fine Arts.

“It’s always been a dream that one day I’d be in a position to be able to provide a scholarship somewhere,” Ancrum says. “I made the decision to set up a scholarship fund at UConn.”

“I was really fortunate to be able to receive scholarship and grant funding when I went to UConn. I would not have been able to go there otherwise. So, this is my chance to give back. I hope it will encourage and support other students, particularly students of color, to enroll at the University of Connecticut through the School of Fine Arts.”

Most of Ancrum’s career has revolved around higher education. While doing an assistantship in the Student Affairs Office at UConn, he discovered that he liked college admissions work. He went on to work in the field at Connecticut College and Colgate University, eventually becoming director of admissions at UMass Boston.

After earning a master’s degree, he then launched his own business as a higher education consultant. Several years later, he branched out into nonprofit foundations, becoming president of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, which provides program grants and scholarships to college students. He also was a professor at Boston College’s School of Social Work, teaching fundraising, strategic planning, and program evaluation.

Now retired, he and Pam live in Charlotte, North Carolina.  More recently, their adult daughter, Erica, has moved to the city. Pam, a longtime anchor and reporter for WCVB, the ABC affiliate in Boston, graduated from Emerson College. Though she’s not a UConn alumna, she grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut, and wants to support the state’s university. She hopes others will follow their lead and consider giving scholarships.

“I think it’s important to be role models and let other people know that this is something anyone could do,” Pam says. “You just have to plan, budget, and be intentional about it. You can help others even if you don’t have deep pockets.”

Ancrum went to UConn in the late 60s and early 70s during a time when UConn was considered a top school for campus social life.

“It was a very active place. The yearbooks reflect the look of the time – the long hair. We were a pretty wild bunch. We took over administration buildings. We did all that stuff. It was a great time to be there.”

“It was a positive experience even though we were going through civil rights and Vietnam during that period. I felt very comfortable being there. I didn’t feel any discrimination as a student in terms of opportunity. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any discrimination. It just was that I personally didn’t feel any. We were—Black students were—organizing demonstrations dealing with civil rights and what was happening with the Black Panther party. It was a busy time.”

Throughout it all, music has been a constant in Ancrum’s life. After graduating from UConn, he and two classmates formed a jazz band named Quintessence, which produced an album by the same name. More recently, he returned from a jazz cruise in the Caribbean, which he described as a jazz festival on the water. He also started an organization called Charlotte Jazz Buzz, which functions much the same as a book club.

“It’s a small group of African American men who listen to jazz,” he says. “We listen to music in advance and get together once a month to discuss it and share music we like.”

If that weren’t enough, he’s also written a memoir, “Keep on Moving: My Journey in the 4th Quarter,” about life after age 60.

Philanthropy also remains a big part of his life. Both he and Pam recently joined a local group called the New Generation of African American Philanthropists in Charlotte.

“Giving back is important to me. I’ve always been involved to some extent in education, so I know how important it is,” he says. “Having the resources is something that makes it possible for that person to go to school. For many of the students I’ve recruited over the years, there is a lack of resources that make that possible. I’m hoping to fill that gap.”

Make a gift to the Ronald and Pamela Ancrum Endowed Scholarship

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