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Dr. Weltman Donates Grand Piano for Cooley Center

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 2:59pm

Dr. Robin Weltman (seated) has donated a baby grand piano to UTHealth's Cooley Center. On hand to accept the gift if UTHealth Executice Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Dillon. Photo by Brian Schnupp.

Dr. Robin Weltman (seated) donated a baby grand piano to UTHealth for the Cooley Center. Accepting the gift on behalf of the university is Executive Vice President Kevin Dillon. Photo by Brian Schnupp.

To celebrate her graduation from dental school, Dr. Robin Weltman’s husband surprised her with a curious present – a baby grand piano.  She had taken clarinet lessons when she was younger, loved music and had long wanted to learn to play the piano.

Twenty-five years later, that’s still her goal, but she’ll have to learn on a different piano because the Schafer & Sons baby grand that stood in her living room since 1987 now graces the lobby of the Denton A. Cooley, MD and Ralph C. Cooley DDS University Life Center.

Weltman, an associate professor and director of advanced education, program director for advanced education in periodontics, and interim chair of the Department of Periodontics and Dental Hygiene at UTHealth School of Dentistry, donated the piano to the university as she and her husband were downsizing to a smaller house and no longer had room for the instrument.

But she knew the perfect place for it – the large, empty lobby of the Cooley Center. The gift was enthusiastically welcomed by the university.

“Our new piano really sets an added tone (no pun intended) to the environment and complements the décor within the Cooley Center,” said Charles Figari, UTHealth vice president and chief of the university’s Auxiliary Enterprises, which operates the center. “It’s a beautiful gift that will stand the test of time and will be enjoyed and appreciated for years to come.”

The Schafer & Sons baby grand piano, donated to UTHealth by Dr. Robin Weltman.

The piano now graces a corner of the Cooley Center's lobby. Photo by Rhonda Whitmeyer.

UTHealth’s 14,000-square-foot special events facility is connected to the School of Dentistry building and hosts conferences, banquets and other gatherings. The piano adds a touch of elegance and ambience to the event center, Weltman said.

“The dental school is like my second home, so this was a perfect place for it,” she said. “I know it will be used and appreciated.”

The rarely used and carefully preserved piano still looks brand new. Weltman wanted to learn to play, but work, kids and life got in the way. She can read music and would occasionally fiddle with the keys but never took lessons.

So the piano served mostly as a decorative piece in the Weltmans’ home and was a frequent conversation-starter among guests. The family lugged the piano around to six homes over the years. But it was just too big for the smaller digs the empty-nesters are moving to now.

“It became a standing joke, when we looked at a new house the first thing we’d ask is, ‘Where are we putting the piano?’ Weltman said.  

A baby grand can cost thousands of dollars, but its uniqueness is what truly stands out about the gift, said John Greer, executive director of development for the School of Dentistry.

A luxury accoutrement like a grand piano enhances the Cooley Center but is not in the university’s budget and is only possible through a gift like Weltman’s, Greer said.