Bales, Polly

Year Inducted: 
Polly Bales
  • Bales Organ Recital Hall, possibly the best organ recital hall in the United States, named for her
  • Founding member of the Fine Arts Advisory Board
  • Established the Bales Teaching Professorship in Organ and the Bales Organ Scholarship Fund
  • Funded the fountain in front of the Dole Foundation Building, among other KU projects
  • Funded music scholarships for female students from the Miyaga Institute in Japan to attend KU
  • 1985: received Fred Ellsworth Medallion from the KU Alumni Association

Polly Bales has been an incredible role model and supporter of KU’s campus, students, faculty and staff.  She has devoted herself to the KU community through philanthropy and support.  Chancellor Robert Hemenway said, “In my time as Chancellor of KU, I have truly never met anyone who loves the University as much as Polly Bales.”  Polly began as an organ student in the KU School of Fine Arts in 1942 at a time when far fewer women were enrolled on campus.  She has stated that music has been the basic interest in her life since the age of five, and through her life, she has wanted to share this love with everyone around her.  She was founding member of the Fine Arts Advisory Board, formed to promote KU academic programs in the arts.  With the help of Polly’s leadership, this group took the lead to create a new performing arts venue to replace the aging Hoch Auditorium.  This led to the creation of the Lied Center.  During her tenure as President, Polly made a substantial contribution to the School of Fine Arts.  With her approval, this gift was used to acquire a world-class tracker organ as well as construct a performance hall.  The Bales Organ Recital Hall is now possibly the best organ recital hall in the United States.  Without her generosity, support, and love for music this facility would not have been possible.

She also promoted the availability and accessibility of art throughout the state.  Through the Hansen Memorial Foundation, she and her late husband Dane supported many state-wide projects, including sponsoring art exhibitions in western Kansas as well as funding music scholarships for female students from the Miyaga Institute in Japan to attend the University of Kansas.

Dale Seuferling, President, KU Endowment Association, said, “What always served to impress me and others about Polly’s support of KU is her interest in all areas of the University.”  Polly has been a member of the Endowment Association Board of Trustees since 1979, as well as a member of the KU Alumni Association Board of Directors.  She has supported not only fine arts but also numerous other campus entities, including the Spencer Museum of Art, University Libraries, Chancellor’s Club, KU Marching Band, Dole Institute of Politics, Honors Program and Athletics.  Polly and her husband Dane also funded the fountain in front of the Dole Foundation Building.  In addition, their donations established the Bales Teaching Professorship in Organ and the Bales Organ Scholarship Fund.  Polly was recognized with the Fred Ellsworth Medallion in 1985 as an acknowledgement of her renowned service to the University.

Polly’s devotion to KU can also be seen in her love and support of campus events and alumni gatherings.  For years she and her husband drove five hours to KU from Logan, Kansas to attend these events.  Peter Thompson, former Dean of the School of Fine Arts and Professor of Art, KU, states, “Polly’s remarkable and unselfish devotion to KU can be summed up with one final example: to this day, when I see Polly, she THANKS ME for giving her the opportunity to be a part of our program.  She is not being coy: it is a genuine expression of the love she has had for KU for more than 60 years.”

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