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Local couple makes contribution to DWU's music department

Ron Gates speaks Thursday about the influence music can have on anyone. His wife, Sheilah, center, and DWU President Amy Novak, left, stand behind him. Novak announced the music department will be renamed the Ron and Sheilah Gates Department of Music. The Gateses recently gave a significant donation toward the music department. (Anna Jauhola/Republic)

Dakota Wesleyan University's music department has a new name, thanks to benefactors Ron and Sheilah Gates, of Mitchell.

The university recognized the Gateses on Thursday for their donation toward the music program during the school's fall convocation and announced the naming of the Ron and Sheilah Gates Department of Music.

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"The generosity of Ron and Sheilah will allow DWU to strategically enhance the resources committed to music," said DWU President Amy Novak. "We plan to hire another faculty member to support an instrumental music program. Additionally, the program will benefit from an endowment that will provide support for music at DWU for years to come."

Ron Gates spoke briefly to the crowd of students, faculty, staff and guests, thanking the school for the honor bestowed upon him and his wife. He said he first met Sheilah at a music recital at DWU and the couple has long been impressed with the musical talent displayed there.

The University is not releasing the donation amount because the Gateses asked the number remain private.

The Gateses also made a donation to the Corrigan Health Sciences Center, naming the Arlene Gates Department of Nursing after Ron's late wife.

"The generosity of Ron and Sheilah Gates has touched so many lives on this campus, and now we have this extraordinary opportunity to support our growing music program," said Dr. Clinton Desmond, choral director for the Ron and Sheilah Gates Department of Music. "Their support over the years is really more than philanthropy, it's friendship, and we've felt that keenly here at DWU."

The first performance of the Ron and Sheilah Gates Department of Music will be the Choral Hymn Festival on Oct. 5 at Mitchell First United Methodist Church.

Sheilah has lived in the Midwest her entire life and made her home in Le Mars and Orange City, Iowa. Her love of music and the arts can be traced back to her grandmother who played piano for the silent movie theater, organ for the church and conducted church choirs. Sheilah was drum majorette for her high school marching band and clarinetist for concert band as well as the community band, and she was also active in drama and theater. While she was a stay-at-home mother, she was a future director for the Mary Kay organization. Sheilah volunteers for her church, and enjoyed volunteering for the Christian Women's Club and at her children's schools when they were young. Sheilah and Ron were married in 2012. Sheilah's son, Curtis and his wife, Mary Puetz, live in Sioux Center, and her daughter, Crisinda and husband, Randy Tackett, live in Kettering, Ohio.

Ron, a native of Sioux City, Iowa, is a Navy veteran. He has been a part of the Mitchell community more than 50 years. In 1969, he and his late wife, Arlene, purchased the Mitchell Retirement Nursing Center and assumed ownership of the Firesteel Healthcare Center in 1984. An industry leader, Ron has been vice president of the board of directors of the South Dakota Healthcare Association and a member of the South Dakota State Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators. He is a member of the First United Methodist Church, where he has served on the Staff Parish Committee and has chaired the Administrative Board. He has also been involved in the Rotary Club and the Rotary Foundation and Exchange Program, and is a past member of the DWU Board of Trustees. In 1990, Ron and Arlene Gates received the DWU Outstanding Citizens Award. Ron's son, Ron Jr., and his wife, Rose, live in Mitchell; and his daughter, Laurie Robinson and husband, Mark, live in Colorado Springs, Colo.