Wayne State remembers Gretchen Valade and her commitment to jazz

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Gretchen C. Valade Jazz Center groundbreaking ceremony.

Wayne State University mourns the passing of Gretchen Valade, Detroit’s devoted jazz advocate and philanthropist, who made gifts totaling $9.5 million to jazz studies and performance at Wayne State, funding the Gretchen C. Valade Jazz Center (GVJC) main hall and its intimate Jazz Underground club-style venue as part of renovations to the Hilberry Gateway integrated performing arts complex for theatre, music and dance.

Gretchen Valade
     Gretchen Valade

“We are all so very grateful to Gretchen Valade for her enormous generosity,” said Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson. “Gretchen’s gifts expanded Wayne State’s commitment to excellence in the arts and humanities. She will be greatly missed, but her commitment to jazz lives on at Wayne State through the Gretchen C. Valade Jazz Center."

The granddaughter of work clothing magnate Hamilton Carhartt, Valade spent much of her free time cultivating her love for jazz as she raised a family with her late husband Robert Valade. Her lifelong passion for the music grew into an enormous investment in the city’s jazz culture.

In 2005, Valade reinvigorated the ailing Detroit Jazz Festival by establishing a $10 million endowment. She was also the owner of Grosse Pointe’s Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe and founder of the Mack Avenue Music Group record label. Throughout each, Valade promoted the musical careers of many Detroit and international jazz musicians.

Valade’s philanthropic contributions to Wayne State included two additional gifts that foster a continued appreciation of jazz education and performance. The Gretchen C. Valade Endowed Chair serves as the artistic director of the GVJC, and the Gretchen C. Valade Endowed Scholarship in Jazz Studies funds a graduate assistantship that supports the endowed chair role.

“Due to her singular commitment to jazz, Gretchen was dubbed the ‘Angel of Jazz’ by the global jazz community,” said Professor Chris Collins, the inaugural Gretchen C. Valade Endowed Chair in Jazz and artistic director of the Detroit Jazz Festival. “Her passion, commitment and vision were a legacy in itself.”

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