Scholarship honors 50 years of women instrumentalists in Blue Band

Susan Nowlin Batutis, one of the first women instrumentalists in the Blue Band, has made a gift to establish a scholarship in her name that recognizes 50 years of women playing in the band and supports diversity and inclusivity within the organization. In 1973, on the heels of Title IX being signed into law, Susan Nowlin courageously stepped into an audition room with then-director James Dunlop. She nervously gripped her drum sticks and was prompted to play “Proud Mary,” written by John Fogerty and made popular by Tina Turner. “I had this desire to show him that I could do it just like everybody else, and I nailed it,” Nowlin Batutis said. “I knew I was good enough to be a part of that band.” With her historic spot in the percussion rank, she would join Carol Gabler, French horn, and Linda Hall, clarinet, to become the first female instrumentalists in the band since World War II, when women were temporarily accepted due to low male numbers. “Being one of the first women musicians in the Blue Band was, and still is, one of the best experiences I've ever had,” Nowlin Batutis said. Nowlin would go on to be the rank leader of the drum line in 1976, her senior year. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in liberal arts, she has stayed connected with the University, which led her to establish the Susan Nowlin Batutis Scholarship. “The Blue Band chose to move forward 50 years ago [by accepting women] and continues to move forward to embrace diversity and inclusiveness in its ranks,” Nowlin Batutis said. “With this gift, I wanted to make sure that other students from diverse backgrounds could have the same experience.” B. Stephen Carpenter II, the Michael J. and Aimee Rusinko Kakos Dean in the College of Arts and Architecture, said Nowlin Batutis and the other women instrumentalists to first play in the band are deeply woven in the fabric of the Blue Band as well as the college. “Susan and the other women who joined the Blue Band in 1973 are trailblazers who hold a unique place in the history of the University. We are incredibly proud of that legacy,” Carpenter said. “We are grateful to Susan for her vision, and we are grateful for this gift in support of our mission to make the College of Arts and Architecture and Penn State a more welcoming place to learn, live, and create.” Donors like Nowlin Batutis advance the University's historic land-grant mission to serve and lead. Through philanthropy, alumni and friends are helping students to join the Penn State family and prepare for lifelong success; driving research, outreach and economic development that grow our shared strength and readiness for the future; and increasing the University's impact for families, patients, and communities across the Commonwealth and around the world. Learn more by visiting raise.psu.edu.