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UNF Foundation, Inc.

Longtime supporter embraces music programs

Cameron Wooley loves to sing. Determined to follow her dream, she auditioned and was accepted at UNF, yet couldn’t get to the funding amount she needed to make the dream a reality. Then she received a special gift — a Bob Tonsfeldt Music Scholarship.

tonsefeldt in the gallery“When they told me the news, I sat and cried for about 30 minutes,” Wooley said. “I thought, ‘I’m going to be able to do this.’”

At the same time, Juliana Galletti was weighing her options to study voice. “The Tonsfeldt award was the deciding factor for me choosing UNF,” Galletti said. “I felt very blessed receiving the award, which has been so helpful with my expenses.”

Now seniors, Wooley and Galletti are two of seven students who have benefited from these four-year scholarships. Their benefactor, also a longtime supporter of the School of Music, began adding funds for individual student scholarships about eight years ago.

“Donating is fine,” Tonsfeldt said, “but getting to know these kids is a big deal. Cami and Juliana have just been remarkable. I’ve seen them grow so much, and it’s been fun to get to know them and go to their recitals. It touches you so much; it’s absolutely great.”

He also recently added funds for both singers to study abroad in a four-week summer opera program in Europe led by Dr. Krzysztof Biernacki, associate professor of voice and music. “It’s just one of the many ways that Bob has supported the opera ensemble and the students,” Biernacki said. “I am eternally grateful for his support. I literally couldn’t do what I do and the students could not get the experiences they get without Bob’s support.”

Tonsfeldt, with his wife Gwynne who has since passed, began giving generously to UNF nearly 20 years ago, when his work brought him to Jacksonville. A 30-year employee of AT&T, he retired as president of Bell South Mobility. In addition to his planned legacy gift to the University, he has donated to the Gerson Yessin Distinguished Professorship in Classic Studies, which allows faculty to bring renowned guest artists to teach classes and to perform. 

Though not a musician himself, Tonsfeldt has a tremendous love of music, which he now shares with the students he sponsors.

“He is an inspiration,” Wooley said. “He’s such a warm, kind person — really an exceptional human being. If I’m ever in a place in my life where I can help someone else, I really want to do for someone what he did for me.”