Ray Navarro shares wealth, wisdom with marching band percussion leaders

Ray Navarro reading thank you letters from past recipients of his percussion leader scholarship. (Benjamin Voller | Collegian Media Group)

Ray Navarro is a 94-year-old Manhattan-born local that truly “bleeds purple” and is one of the Pride of Wildcat Land’s biggest supporters financially and fanatically.

Being raised in Manhattan allowed Navarro to partake in Kansas State activities at a young age, and he continues to contribute to K-State through donations.

“I started going to Nichols gym probably when I was six years old,” Navarro said. “My uncles would take me to K-State’s wrestling program and basketball [program], and that evolved into football games at that old Memorial Stadium.”

While enamored with Wildcat sports, Navarro’s true passion was musical performance. Navarro didn’t get to participate in band in high school because of work, so when K-State donors approached Navarro with the chance to help with the band program, Navarro didn’t hesitate.

“I’m a frustrated musician that never really got to participate at the time, and I had to work after high school, so I got started donating to the band through a former band director to help buy new uniforms,” Navarro said.

(Photo Courtesy Photo of Ray Navarro)
Ray Navarro with the Kansas State marching band. (Photo Courtesy Photo of Ray Navarro)

Because Navarro has been living in Manhattan his entire life, he has seen the town and campus evolve over the years. A current development he is getting to see unveil and help fund is the new band practice facility.

“They took me down and showed me the empty area … where it is gonna happen, an area that I used to play in when I was just a little kid … it’s going to be an enormous place for the band,” Navarro said.

Navarro said he has always had a love for music and was never afraid of it or dancing. When talking about a middle school dance, he explained how he was not afraid — unlike other students in his class.

“You’ve seen that where the girls are on one side and boys on the other,” Navarro said. “That didn’t happen with me — I had a blast.”

After Navarro’s first donation to help pay for new uniforms, he created the Navarro Marching Band Percussion Leaders Scholarship, financially helping percussion student section leaders who devote time and energy to the Pride of Wildcat Land. Gordon Dowell, senior gift planning officer at the KSU Foundation, helped Navarro with the scholarship.

“Then I met ‘Flash’ Gordon here and really got involved, and they allowed me to pick a section of the band that I want to support,” Navarro said. “I’m blessed to be able to participate this way.”

Navarro has been gifting donations to the band for over 20 years and enjoys helping those students. Navarro considers all the students he helps as part of his family.

(Benjamin Voller | Collegian Media Group)
Ray Navarro reading thank you letters from past recipients of his percussion leader scholarship. (Benjamin Voller | Collegian Media Group)

“Ray provides significant scholarship dollars to all eight student leaders of the drumline,” Frank Tracz, director of bands, said. “Needless to say, these awards are extremely beneficial to the students in the DL [drumline].”

Patrick Flett, senior in electrical engineering, has received and benefited from Navarro’s scholarship for being one of the percussionist leaders in the K-State marching band.

“Ray Navarro’s generosity has helped me out tremendously over the past three years, and I can’t thank him enough,” Flett said. “He’s a really nice guy. He loves listening to the drumline play, and we love having him around.”