Funding the Creative Spirit
Bernard and Sally Dobroski’s lives were transformed at Carnegie Tech, and they’re ensuring the same for future Tartans through endowed funds.
Amanda S.F. Hartle
College of Fine Arts alumni Bernard “Bernie” and Sally (Seibert) Dobroski’s great marriage started as an even greater friendship.
Wearing “dinks” identifying them as first-year students, the couple met during their first day on Carnegie Institute of Technology’s campus in 1964 as Sally stored her supplies in a locker.
“We became very good friends before we started dating at the end of our first year,” Bernie said. “We joined the same clubs and were interested in the same things like volunteerism, international relations, music theater, good food and art shows.”
They married in 1968, three days before graduating from the newly named Carnegie Mellon University with degrees in art education for her and music performance for him.
Bernie and Sally carry with them fond memories of their years on campus as well as crucial Tartan connections that aided them throughout the years.
In 2013, they created a permanent, endowed scholarship to benefit current students and are also establishing legacy gifts to ensure future generations of students can benefit from similar experiences.
“Our sense of gratitude began when we were students and realized what we were getting,” Bernie says.
“Our time on campus really opened up worlds to both of us, and our commitment to Carnegie is long-lived.”
The couple’s Dobroski-Seibert Family Scholarship supports undergraduate students studying art or music. In addition, Bernie and Sally are intending to create two other endowed funds — one for the School of Art and another for the School of Music. Each fund focuses on interdisciplinary opportunities such as the creation of community-based programs, cross-campus collaboration efforts and support for student travel and materials.
“We want to encourage students to reach out and innovate across schools,” Sally said. “These funds also really support materials and collaborative projects. We realize that many times, a trip to a convention or an audition can really make all the difference.”
Bernie can relate. He visited the Soviet Union during his junior year, and his $1,000 travel costs were covered by a donor.
“It transformed my life,” Bernie said. “That $1,000 paid dividends over my 60-year career.”
The first in his family to attend college, Bernie, an All-State tuba player, almost didn’t attend CMU due to financial concerns. His next four years were made possible due to scholarship support.
Sally, who also received scholarship support, came from a family whose car trips often included her father’s alma mater. Mark Seibert was a cheerleader and graduated from the College of Fine Arts in 1929, followed later by Sally’s sister, Susan Pontano; brother-in-law, Benjamin Potano; and several nieces and nephews.
The couple’s scholarship honors her father’s Tartan devotion, and their funds address financial barriers like purchasing project materials — something that once hampered Sally’s father’s creative output as a student.
A Foundation for Success
The couple’s CMU educations aided them as they traveled around the country for their careers. Sally taught art in public and private schools in Illinois, Oregon and Virginia and earned her master’s degree in early childhood education.
Bernie served as a tubist in the U.S. Navy Band in Washington, D.C.; earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in music; and became a professor and dean in the School of Music at the University of Oregon and Northwestern University.
He retired in 2020 from the classroom at Northwestern where he is a professor emeritus, but not before he left his mark on the music program. Inspired by their CMU experiences, he founded the university’s first dual majors combining arts with other areas.
Now, they’re setting up their support in perpetuity through their will and estate plans.
“At Carnegie, we really stress the idea that you need to be able to reach out beyond the floodlights,” Bernie said. “You need to speak well, think clearly and work collaboratively. We learned that versatility and have leaned on it our entire lives.”