Chuck Surack of Fort Wayne, owner and founder of nationally renowned music business Sweetwater Sound, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Saint Francis during the university's commencement exercises May 5.
Surack is a long-time friend of the university. His support launched its music technology degree in 2007, providing music engineers for the development of music technology labs and facilities, as well as equipment to start the program. Music technology majors have access to Sweetwater Sound's state-of-the-art headquarters, in addition to in-house seminars and educational events.
He also provides internships through which the university's music technology majors can gain professional experience and be considered for employment upon graduation. In addition, Surack and his wife, Lisa, created the Sweetwater/Chuck and Lisa Surack Endowed Scholarship for Music Technology to assist students with financial aid.
He built the Fort Wayne business into the nation's third-largest retailer of musical instruments and a $200 million, 430-employee company. He has consulted with music stars such as Kenny Rogers and Stevie Wonder, and his company was named fastest-growing privately held small business by Inc. 500 annually from 1993-1995. The business was named Independent Music Retailer of the Year by Music Inc. in 2005, and received the Better Business Bureau 2006 Torch Award and the 2007 Best Places to Work in Northeast Indiana award.
Surack is heavily involved with charities and community service, and serves on numerous local boards and committees, as well as the board of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). In 2008, he received the prestigious BCA Ten Award for corporate support of the arts from the Business Committee for the Arts, and in 2009 Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels awarded him the Governor's Arts Award.
The company is highly philanthropic, and has contributed to more than 300 arts, cultural and social service organizations, including the Embassy Theatre Foundation, ARC/Easter Seals, Junior Achievement, WBNI/WBOI public radio, Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, Fort Wayne Children's Choir, Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne, Community Harvest Food Bank and Fort Wayne Women's Bureau.
"We are pleased to award the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Chuck Surack," said University of Saint Francis President M. Elise Kriss, OSF. "His leadership, generosity and guidance, not only to the university, but to so many other people and organizations, exemplify the qualities associated with this high honor."