Longstanding estate trust provides life-changing experiences for College of Fine Arts and Communication students
After attending his first Drum Corps International Tour show at age 15, Elliot Etter
vowed he would someday be among its talented drum majors. Thanks to years of hard
work and travel support from the Kaplan Fund at Towson University, the senior computer
science major and TU Marching Band member was able to make his dream a reality.
From May to August, Etter performed across the country—from the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis—as part of the world-class Arizona-based drum corps The Academy, one of more than 40 units competing in the annual summer tour.
“This was one of the most physically and mentally demanding summers ever for me, but absolutely worth the reward in the end,” Etter says. “I learned how to develop a great work ethic and maintain it, even when I don’t feel motivated. I learned how to be a leader, and when to step up to take control of a situation, as well as how to be a good follower and know when to be a good listener.”
Supporting students like Etter is the primary goal for the Kaplan Fund, which has distributed more than $700,000 in funds from Harold J. Kaplan’s donor trust since 2002.
In August, the fund’s trustees signed a five-year pledge for $350,000, renewing its commitment to Towson University’s College of Fine Arts and Communication. The renewed pledge will bring the total trust donations to more than $1 million by 2025.
The fund is made possible by the estate of Harold J. Kaplan, a successful urologist and lifelong bachelor who worked for years at St. Joseph’s Medical Center, just down the street from Towson University’s campus.
Outgoing and generous, Kaplan took an interest in the goals and passions of those around him, especially young people, often striking up conversations with those he came across in daily life.
“Whenever a waiter or waitress would come up to him in a restaurant, he would ask, ‘Are you going to college?’” recalls estate planner A. Michael Sidle, who befriended Kaplan in high school and helped the generous doctor establish the trust before his death in 2002. “He just liked to know what they were doing for their future.”
Kaplan was an avid walker. On one outing to Towson Town Center, he struck up a conversation with another walker, Maravene Loeschke, then dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication and, later, president of TU from 2012– 2014. That fortuitous meeting developed into a strong relationship with the college. A graduate of Howard University, Kaplan split his estate between Towson University’s College of Fine Arts and Communication and his alma mater.
Nearly three-quarters of the gifts from the donor trust have gone toward providing life-changing experiences to students that would be unreachable without this assistance. In the 2018 – 2019 academic year, the Kaplan Fund supported approximately 30 students traveling to 17 cities domestically and internationally, providing opportunities to build their skills and networks by participating in workshops, dance intensives, conferences and more.
“His legacy began with the naming of the Harold J. Kaplan Concert Hall in the Center for the Arts and continues through the financial resources provided to our young artists for travel and creative activities,” says College of Fine Arts and Communications Interim Dean Greg Faller.
“His generosity allows us to continually raise the profile of COFAC in the region,
nationally and even internationally—a specific goal of TU’s strategic plan. We greatly
appreciate Dr. Kaplan’s dedication to our college and his belief in our mission to
make COFAC a vibrant center for arts, media and communication.”
How would Kaplan react if he could see how students at TU are benefitting from his generosity? “He’d be smiling,” Sidle says. “He had the best smile of anybody I know. He was a guy that just smiled all the time.
This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland, Culture of Philanthropy.