Allee Willis was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and was gifted in both visual and performing arts. Her songwriting hits included September, In The Stone, and Boogie Wonderland for Earth, Wind and Fire, and hits for such artists as Rita Coolidge, Sister Sledge, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Cyndi Lauper, and the Pointer Sisters. She was nominated for an Emmy for the theme song from Friends, I’ll Be There For You. She won Grammy Awards for Best Soundtrack for Beverly Hills Cop and Best Musical Theatre Album, The Color Purple. She was also nominated for a Tony Award for The Color Purple for Original Musical Score. Ms. Willis was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018. The breadth of her work is testament to the importance of all art forms, and its ability to educate, excite, and unite.

Willis was also an amazing visual artist, active as a painter, ceramicist, and sculptor. She was an accomplished art director and set designer.


In honor of her exemplary and ground-breaking career in the arts, her sister is establishing The Allie Willis Artist Scholarship, honoring an outstanding senior visual and/or performing arts student at South High Magnet School. The selected student will pursue, through college and/or career, one or more of the fields in which Ms. Willis excelled.

Eligible Schools:

South High Magnet School

Selection Criteria:

The selected recipient MUST be obtaining a degree in the visual arts (which includes set design, costume design, songwriting, music in general and/or painting, etc.).

The student will demonstrate:

  1. Academic proficiency;
  2. Active and successful involvement in music technology and/or film;
  3. Involvement in instrumental music (band, guitar, piano, orchestra) for at least 2 years
  4. Successful completion of Mixed Media, Applied Design, or Honors/AP visual and performing arts courses;
  5. Interest and competence in music composing, sound recording, music industry work, and/or visual arts exhibitions or installations;
  6. Involvement in community/public arts exhibits, competitions, and events.

Selection Process:

The award will be forwarded to the recipient’s college of choice upon receipt of proof of enrollment and a “Thank You” note directed to the donor.



Administered By:

Omaha Public Schools Foundation
Toba Cohen-Dunning, Executive Director
3861 Farnam St.
Omaha, NE 68131

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