Concert Featuring UB Alumna Laura Aiken Set for Dedication of Robert G. and Carol L. Morris Center for 21st Century Music

By Sue Hofmann

Release Date: October 12, 2007

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Artists, students, scholars, musicians and friends of the arts will gather on Oct. 17 to dedicate the Robert G. and Carol L. Morris Center for 21st Century Music and thank the generous donors for whom it is named.

A performance by world-renowned soprano and UB alumna Laura Aiken and the Slee Sinfonietta at 8 p.m. in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall on UB's North (Amherst) Campus will highlight the evening's program, which also will includes a formal dedication ceremony and artists reception.

Benefactors Robert and Carol Morris of New York City provided a major gift to help establish the center in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and provide support for June in Buffalo, UB's internationally known festival and conference dedicated to emerging and renowned senior composers, and for the Slee Sinfonietta, UB's professional chamber orchestra-in-residence. The academic center will create and produce new work, presenting it to the public through concerts, touring, recordings, video, and film and print media.

"UB boasts a long and storied arts tradition, yet today is one of only a handful of public universities committed to contemporary arts as an artistic focus," said Robert Morris, who earned a bachelor's degree in economics from UB in 1967. "We hope our gift will ensure that UB remains the creative home for artistic innovation and emerging artistic leaders, and continues to attract internationally acclaimed artists and world-class performers."

The Morris gift supports UB's strategic strength in Artistic Expression and Performing Arts as part of the institution's visionary UB 2020 strategic planning process, which is aligning resources with areas of academic strength and promise.

President John B. Simpson, citing earlier gifts from the Morris family to establish the Humanities Institute, the CAS Emergency Fund and the Morris Sports Performance Center, thanked the Morrises for their generosity and vision.

"UB is deeply grateful to Bob and Carol Morris for their ongoing commitment to our university and the many gifts they have provided in support of several of our most important projects across campus," Simpson said. "Their gift to the Morris Center for 21st Century Music will build significantly upon our extraordinary music program. In the process, this center will help us expand innovative programs and enhance our academic and cultural reputation within the region, the nation and the larger world.

"This is an exciting time for the University at Buffalo as we move forward in our pursuit of our ambitious agenda of academic excellence and leadership," Simpson added. "The Morris Center for 21st Century Music plays a significant role in advancing this mission and we are deeply grateful to Bob and Carol Morris for the confidence they have shown in UB and the investment they have made in the university's future."

The Morris family's tie to UB spans three generations. Robert Morris' parents, Ruth T. and Donald L., received degrees from the university in 1965 and 1964, respectively, and one of Robert and Carol's sons, Alexander, earned bachelor's and master's degrees in architecture from the university in 1991 and 1994, respectively.

Robert Morris serves on the Dean's Advisory Council of the College of Arts and Sciences and is chair of the UB Foundation Development Committee. He earned a master's degree from Northeastern University.

He recently retired as partner and chief investment officer at Lord, Abbett & Co., an independent investment management firm in Jersey City, N.J., that manages more than $93.5 billion in assets. Before joining Lord, Abbett & Co. in 1991, he was vice president and manager of equity and equity investment research at Chase Manhattan Bank.

Aikin, who is now based in Berlin, is considered a leader among the generation of dynamic young sopranos today. Possessing a range of more than three octaves and an arresting stage presence, her repertoire embraces works from the Baroque to the contemporary on both the concert and operatic stages.

In great demand in both Europe and America, she began her career as a member of the ensemble at the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, where she has performed more than 300 times in such major roles as Lulu (Lulu), Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte), Zerbinetta (Ariadne auf Naxos), Amenaide (Tancredi), Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier), Adele (Die Fledermaus) and Zaide (Zaide). A regular guest in the world's leading opera houses, she also has performed at the Vienna State Opera, La Scala Milan, Bavarian State Opera, Opernhaus Zurich, the Liceu in Barcelona, Netherlands Opera and at the Bastille in Paris, among many others.

In the United States, Aikin has sung at the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Santa Fe Opera and most recently, the San Francisco Opera.

A Clarence native, Aikin received a bachelor of fine arts degree in music education from the UB.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.