Not many people can say they received a thank you letter from the President of the United States. Allan Hancock College music professor Ann Lucas, D.M.A., is on the short list. The director of the Allan Hancock College Singers choral group received a letter from President Barack Obama commending her for leading the charge to update the music building and making a difference on the Hancock campus.
“Your selfless spirit reflects the essential American belief that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, and it’s clear you’ve made a difference on your campus,” wrote Obama.
The letter referred to Lucas spearheading the effort to upgrade the music building on the Santa Maria campus. “It was important to see the renovations through because the conditions sent the wrong message about the music program and the college,” said Lucas. “I felt the building did not represent our excellent program.” The building was constructed in the ‘60s, before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements were in place.
The final motivation for Lucas was the entry of a student, Jason Farrar, into the music program. He is blind and uses a wheelchair. ”Because of the stairs, it was difficult for Jason get past the vending machines in the lobby to enter the practice room. He couldn’t get into the faculty office at all,” Lucas said.
Lucas worked with college administrators to devise a plan to bring the building into ADA compliance, as well as improve the overall appearance and lighting. Lucas also volunteered to relocate her office to facilitate installing a wheelchair lift in the lobby to allow Farrar and others to have better access to the music room.
“Dr. Lucas wants her students to succeed and because of her efforts, I am able to enrich my love for music as much as anyone else,” said Farrar. “My wife and I no longer have anxiety about getting help going up and down the stairs. I just show up and learn.”
It was Farrar and his wife, Suzi, who wrote to the president to express their gratitude toward Lucas and the impact she made on the Hancock campus and their lives.
“Dr. Lucas did not have to do what she did. But she is a professor who leads by example,” added Farrar.
Lucas is happy with the changes, including the new lift, upgrades to the floor, acoustic ceiling, lights, chalkboards and interior paint. “I am thrilled our dean and administrators supported our efforts, allocated the funding and made it happen. Our music building is much more welcoming. The music department and our students are very thankful,” said Lucas.
Though reluctant to take credit for the changes, Lucas now possesses a letter on White House stationary that sings a different tune.
“Together, we can build a Nation where all our people have equal opportunity and the support they need to achieve their dreams,” wrote the President. “I am always encouraged by stories of Americans going out of the way to look out for one another, and kind acts like yours give me great hope for the future.”