Columbia College Affinity Magazine: Summer 2020

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families were cattle royalty. Frances’ father was one of the industry founders of the American Royal, and later her husband, Jay, was president of the Kansas City stockyards for nearly 30 years. John recalls learning to play the piano around the age of four or five on the family farm. “She said if she could hear me playing, that meant she knew where I was and I wouldn’t be in trouble,” he recalls with a laugh.

Throughout her life, Frances Dillingham maintained a close connection with her alma mater.

Summer 2020

“Aunt Roxy was an unbelievable Dixieland pianist – I wish I had some of her recordings – so being associated with music is not some strange world to me,” he adds.



John – and Frances – grew up in a much different era than today. When new barns in the area were built the community would celebrate with a barn dance. “Everyone played what they could carry,” he says. As a young girl, Frances learned to play violin as well as piano. “Before there were cars and TV, that’s how you entertained yourself,” John says.

Throughout her life, Frances maintained a close connection with her alma mater. She was president of the Christian College National Alumni Board as well as chairman of the college alumni fund, and served as a trustee in the 1970s. In addition, she established three music scholarships: one in honor of her friend and former music teacher, Camilla Singleton; another to honor her sister Louise and her aunt Roxy, who took on the role of acting mother when the girls’ own mother passed away; and another to honor her mother-in-law, Edna Chestnut Dillingham, who attended Christian College in 1905. Following Frances’ death in 2011, John agreed to combine the three scholarships to form the Frances Dillingham Music Fund Endowment. As the music program has grown, its needs have evolved. Columbia College didn’t have any sort of event to honor and celebrate the achievements of the program’s top students, and the family’s legacy of support now makes possible the Dillingham Family Music Showcase (see sidebar). “Mr. Dillingham’s philanthropy has been central to our growth as a music program,” says Assistant Professor of Music Nollie Moore. The Dillingham family’s support hasn’t only been financial: Francis