MU announces $1 million gift for theater department

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COLUMBIA - MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced Monday that a current theater professor has given a $1 million estate gift to the university to create a new center for the theater department.

Professor Suzanne Burgoyne, currently the Curators' Teaching Professor of Theatre at MU, gave the estate gift to establish the Center for Applied Theatre and Drama Research. 

Applied theatre is an interactive form of theatre used "for some purpose beyond entertainment," such as a teaching tool or for therapy, said Burgoyne. She said applied theater can deal with social issues, for example.

MU will receive the money after Burgoyne dies. She said she had been thinking about making the donation for a while.

"It was something I had been thinking about for a long time," said Burgoyne. "I don't have children, I don't have brothers or sisters, my parents are gone, I really don't have family." 

Once she realized the university will be able to open the center before she dies, she decided to make the donation.

"I had not realized that if I gave it to the university I could go ahead and found the center," said Burgoyne. "That was the thing that made me go 'Yes, I'm going to do it now, because I want the center now,' I don't want to wait until I'm dead."

Loftin said the gift was special because it came from someone inside the university.

"This is one of those great moments where we get to acknowledge someone who's been extraordinarily generous to our university," said Loftin. "It is especially important when there is someone who is inside the university." 

Burgoyne said she hopes the new center will provide broad educational opportunities for students and change the current education system.

"I'm a real dreamer," said Burgoyne. "I hope the center helps to reform education."

Burgoyne added she hoped theater would get more respect. She said theater teaches students numerous life skills including communication, creativity and empathy.  

"A lot of people don't understand what theater is and so they dismiss it," said Burgoyne. "And I think theater has a lot more to offer than most people give it credit for." 

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