Alumnus' gift will help Penn State Glee Club expand its reach

Stephanie Swindle
February 05, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When Chris Kiver, director of the Penn State Glee Club, revealed his dreams for the club during its 125th anniversary celebration in 2014, he never thought those dreams would become a reality. But former Glee Clubber Mike Helms (’68 bachelor of science, ’74 master of science business) was listening.

Within a few months, Helms and his wife, Martha, made the decision to offer a dollar-for-dollar match of any gift made to the Glee Club Endowment up to $50,000 between Jan. 1 and April 30 or until the total has been met. This commitment allowed the Dream Matching Challenge, currently underway, to take shape.

“After attending the Glee Club reunion of 2014, I was dismayed by learning that some members cannot enjoy the full Glee Club experience simply due to financial hardship. My wife and I began to consider how could we along with others help those who need some financial assistance. And from that, the Glee Club Dream Matching Challenge idea was born. I hope many current and former Glee Club members will join us in this effort,” said Mike Helms.

Participation in the Dream Matching Challenge has already begun. Before the official launch, the challenge had raised $3,150 in support in matching funds. Gifts to the Penn State Glee Club not only benefit the Glee Club but the entire University because members come from all areas of study and promote school spirit at events across campus throughout the year.

“I am overwhelmed and humbled," said Chris Kiver about the Helms' donation. "It's a testament to the incredible experiences the Glee Club offers Penn State students. For many, these experiences provide life-long, cherished memories, which all generations of Glee Clubbers can relate to. Clearly Mike's experiences as a Glee Club member have inspired him and Martha to make this wonderful offer so that present and future Glee Clubbers will benefit from rich musical and fraternal experiences.”  

Kiver’s dreams for the Glee Club include funding support in five areas: uniforms, tours, music compositions, retreats and the Penn State Glee Club Men of Song Festival.

“Quite simply, this has the potential to transform how the Glee Club operates,” said Kiver, noting the funds generated will ease the financial burden on Glee Club members. “We will be able to help defray the significant expense of uniform purchase as well as the cost of the annual spring break tour.”

The funds will also allow the Glee Club to continue to expand the Men of Song Festival, a daylong festival at University Park for middle and high school students, and to commission composers to write new music specifically for the Glee Club. “This not only expands our own music library but those of other male choirs around the world. It's exciting to think this gift will have an impact well beyond University Park,” explained Kiver.

The Glee Club, founded in 1888, has performed across the United States and overseas, including state and divisional conventions of the National Association for Music Educators (NAfME) and American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). Recent highlights include performances at the National Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C., and Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh. The Glee Club has hosted the Men of Song festival since 2012. The oldest student organization at Penn State, the Glee Club’s members hail from all colleges and schools on the University Park campus.

Kiver and the Glee Club are preparing to embark upon their spring break tour though the Northeast, visiting Massachusetts and Connecticut. According to current Glee Club member Michael DePodwin, the announcement of the Dream Matching Challenge has boosted the group’s spirit and anticipation for the tour.

“The excitement throughout the Glee Club was palpable after Dr. Kiver announced the Dream Matching Challenge. In general, Glee Clubbers exude a natural passion for our group since we are aware of our rich history and our mutual love of making great music together. This fundraising campaign has increased that passion to a higher level,” said DePodwin, who is the group’s webmaster.

“After speaking to some of the guys, and knowing how much the Glee Club means to them, we will surely be donating to the cause — though perhaps more on a college budget. The Dream Matching Challenge has the potential to transform the way the Glee Club does business for the better, and my peers and I can't wait to see the results,” added DePodwin.

According to Kiver, donating to the campaign will allow Glee Club alumni to continue to feel connected to a group that was special to them as Penn State students.

“The alumni have already given us so much by singing while they were here at Penn State. The great thing about giving now is that they can continue to feel a part of the Penn State Glee Club family by helping us to become better, to grow, and to enable more people to experience the sounds of the Glee Club,” said Kiver.

For more information about the Dream Matching Challenge, visit the Penn State Glee Club website:

Penn State’s alumni and friends are invaluable partners in fulfilling the University's land-grant mission of education, research and service. Private gifts from alumni and friends enrich the experiences of students both in and out of the classroom; expand the research and teaching capacity of our faculty; enhance the University's ability to recruit and retain top students and faculty; and help to ensure that students from every economic background have access to a Penn State education. The University's colleges and campuses are now enlisting the support of alumni and friends to advance a range of unit-specific initiatives.

  • an 1894 image of the Glee Club

    Current Glee Club archivist, Reese Wamsley, found an 1894 image of the Glee Club in the library archives.

    IMAGE: Penn State Library Archives
  • Glee Club of 1892

    The Glee Club posed for a group photo in 1892.

    IMAGE: Penn State Library Archives
  • Penn State Glee Club 1920-21

    Penn State Glee Club members posed for a group photograph (1920-21).

    IMAGE: Penn State Library Archives
  • Glee Club members 1955

    The 1955 Glee Club prepared for a performance.

    IMAGE: Penn State Library Archives
  • Members of the Hi-Lo's

    Members of the Hi-Lo's danced and sang at a performance on campus, c. 1973.

    IMAGE: Penn State Library Archives
  • group of singers in Eisenhower Auditorium

    The Glee Club hosted their Men of Song Festival in 2014 in Eisenhower Auditorium.

    IMAGE: Stephanie Swindle
  • Chris Kiver conducting the Glee Club

    Chris Kiver conducted the Glee Club during a rehearsal in the Forum.

    IMAGE: Stephanie Swindle
  • Glee Club members in tails

    Glee Club members in tails posed for a photograph after performing in the Mosaic concert.

    IMAGE: Stephanie Swindle
  • Chris Kiver conducting the Glee Club

    Chris Kiver conducted the Glee Club from the upper balcony during the Mosaic concert.

    IMAGE: Stephanie Swindle
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Last Updated February 09, 2015