By Holly Haber
Inspired by the tutorage and friendship of Music Education Professor Emeritus Thomas Tunks, SMU alumni Douglas Camp (M.M. Music Education, 1988) and his wife, Janet (M.S. Engineering Management, 1986), have funded the first scholarship for graduate music education at SMU in Tunks’ name.
The Camps’ $100,000 gift to launch the endowment ensures that Meadows School of the Arts can offer scholarships each year in perpetuity to top students in the music education master’s program, with preference for those with teaching experience.
This year, two winners will each receive $2,500 from the Thomas W. Tunks Endowed Graduate Music Education Scholarship.
As alumni, supporters, and admirers of Tunks also contribute to the scholarship fund, the amount Meadows will be able to award annually will continue to grow.
“Tunks was a very influential mentor in my university experience,” Douglas Camp says. While attending SMU, he and Janet began a stimulating and rewarding friendship with Professor Tunks and his wife, Jeanne, that continues to this day.
“He helped shape the way I look at the world and how I thought about teaching and the role of music in people’s lives throughout history and in our time,” Camp says.
“We also wanted to establish the scholarship because Janet and I both participated in public school music programs. We want to help and encourage music educators in the public schools as much as possible to develop their teaching skills and to stay in the profession.”
Many schools require that teachers earn a master’s degree within a certain period, but it can be hard for teachers to afford advanced studies.
The Tunks scholarship is a “game changer,” says Sam Holland, dean of Meadows School of the Arts.
“This is the first time we have an endowed scholarship to award to our top music education students,” he says. “It will help with recruiting and the ability to graduate these young professionals, who are really on the front lines of introducing the next generation to the subject of music.”
Many adults who appreciate music first become acquainted with it through a school class, both Holland and Camp pointed out.
“Music education is kind of a quiet field, but it’s really, really important for the future of our society,” Holland affirms.
As a bass trombonist, Camp performed professionally in many Dallas area ensembles. He served as a public school band director before and immediately after he earned his master’s degree at SMU. He subsequently established a highly regarded private teaching studio in the Richardson ISD. Camp eventually earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree and joined the faculty at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado. He and Janet, a former semiconductor research engineer at Texas Instruments, are now retired.
Tom Tunks and his wife, Jeanne, who is retired from the education faculty at the University of North Texas, were life mentors, notes Janet Camp.
“They taught through hospitality — gatherings at their home or on their sailboat on White Rock Lake,” she says.
“They fostered this great community,” Douglas Camp adds. “They wanted us to be thinking educators, to teach to the mind expansion of a student.”
Tunks encouraged his students to contemplate why they did everything in their lives, Douglas Camp notes.
“It seems simplistic, but it’s very important,” Camp reflects. “The concept of examining the activities in your life makes them a lot more meaningful. A lot of people don’t do that. They get stuck in a rut, and that’s where they stay.”
Tunks, who still sails White Rock Lake with his wife, was far more than a beloved professor at SMU. Starting in 1980 as head of the music education department, he held a series of key university posts, including interim provost, associate provost, interim Meadows dean and associate Meadows dean.
He is so highly regarded that SMU renamed its Distinguished University Citizen Award in his honor in 2014. Tunks retired in 2019.
“He was the quintessential servant leader of the university,” Holland affirms. “It all started in the music education program, so it’s really a beautiful thing to see this circle completed of Tom’s retirement and his graduates reaching a point where they are able to give back.”
Tunks says he feels “honored and humbled” by the scholarship in his name.
Speaking before he and Jeanne headed off to volunteer at the Covid-19 vaccination mega center in Fair Park, Tunks praised music education co-chairs Sarah Allen and Julie Scott for creating a part-time master’s degree program.
“That allowed area teachers to get a master’s degree using evenings and summers so they didn’t have to give up their teaching job to do it,” Tunks says. “That has made all the difference.”
There are typically 15 to 20 students in the program compared with only six back in Camp’s day.
“It’s intentionally small, and as a result it’s a very high-touch program,” Holland points out. “The students get a lot of personal one-on-one attention. We are helping them advance in their profession and also become more skillful teachers.”
If you would like to help honor Dr. Tunks and his legacy at SMU, click here to give online or contact the Meadows Development Office at email@example.com or 214.768.4189. Gifts of any size are deeply appreciated and will benefit future generations of music education students.
Read more about the music education program at the Meadows School.