USC alumna Wanda Wilk, a philanthropist, educator and patron of Polish music, died in her Los Angeles home on Feb. 18 after a long illness. She was 88.
Funeral services will be held Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at the Church of the Hills at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive in Los Angeles.
A reception of Wilk’s life will be held after the burial at the Lakeside Golf Club, 4500 W. Lakeside Drive in Burbank.
Wilk’s vision for the promotion of Polish music led to the creation of the Polish Music Center at USC. The center has operated on campus under the auspices of the USC Thornton School of Music since 1985.
Wilk served as director of the Polish Music Center for the first 10 years of its operation. After retiring in 1996, she continued as the center’s honorary director, lending advice and support to the two subsequent directors and the staff.
Her contacts with many of the most prominent Polish musicians of the 20th century led to numerous concerts she organized at USC and throughout Southern California.
The many holdings of the center’s library include Polish music scores, books, periodicals, sound recordings and other materials. In recent years, the center has received several important collections of manuscripts, correspondence and memorabilia.
The Polish Music History Series, a cycle of books on Polish music published by the center, was introduced with Wilk’s volume commemorating composer Karol Szymanowski’s centenary in 1982. Since then the series has grown to include 10 volumes.Wilk served as editor in chief for the first six volumes of the series and also authored numerous articles about Polish women composers.
In 1992, together with her late husband Stefan, Wilk established Ars Musica Poloniae, a charitable foundation that coordinates a variety of projects in Polish music for Polish students in Los Angeles.
In 1996, Wilk was awarded the Polonia Restituta medal, the highest state award bestowed by Poland.
Wilk graduated from Wayne State University in 1943 with a bachelor’s degree in music. After teaching in Detroit public schools for several years, she moved to California in 1949. She enrolled in a master’s program at USC, but interrupted her studies while continuing to perform as a pianist at charity benefits. In 1952, she married Stefan Wilk and subsequently became a full-time homemaker.
In 1974, Mrs. Wilk returned to the USC School of Music to finish her master’s degree alongside her daughter Diane, who was enrolled in the School of Architecture. Mrs. Wilk graduated from USC in 1976, but the lack of reference materials on Polish music at the university planted the seed of an idea that led to the creation of the Polish Music Center.
In 1980, Mrs. Wilk received the Mayor’s Certificate of Appreciation for her participation in the Polish Cultural Exhibit at the California Museum of Science and Industry.
In 1988, Mrs. Wilk and her husband were awarded the Polonia Award from the Southern California chapter of the Polish American Congress and a gold medal from the Polish Composers’ Union, which she served as an honorary member. Mrs. Wilk’s honors at USC include the Director’s Award from the USC School of Music (1982), the Torchbearers’ Award (1992) and the President’s Commendation (2005). In 2008, she was made an honorary citizen of her hometown.
Mrs. Wilk is survived by her daughter, Diane Wilk-Burch, and her spouse, Michael Burch, their three children, and other relatives in Southern California.
Her family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to:
Polish Music Center
USC Thornton School of Music
840 West 34th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0851
The forthcoming Spring Concert of Polish Music on March 28 at Newman Recital Hall will be dedicated to Mrs. Wilk.
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