Professor donates $1 million to theater department

The donation is the largest ever made by a College of Arts and Science faculty.

A representative for the faculty donor speaks at a gift announcement for the Department of Theatre Monday, March 9, 2015, at Rhynsburger Theatre in Columbia, Mo.

An MU professor’s $1 million donation to the Department of Theatre was announced by university officials on Monday.

Suzanne Burgoyne, Curator’s Teaching Professor of Theatre, donated the gift to establish the Center for Applied Theatre and Drama Research. She said the center will explore new opportunities to use theater techniques in a variety of fields.

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said donation announcements are especially significant when the gift comes from a university member.

“They not only thank the donor, they celebrate the generosity of people who have made this university’s trajectory so powerful over time,” he said.

Loftin said Burgoyne’s impact on students has been profound.

“You have a true passion for what you do, and it shows,” he said to her at the announcement ceremony.

Burgoyne founded the MU Interactive Theatre Troupe with professor of theatre Clyde Ruffin in 2003 and currently contributes to MU’s Difficult Dialogues program. She said applied theater uses the practices of theater for other fields.

“Applied theater and drama are active learning techniques,” she said.

College of Arts and Science Dean Michael O’Brien said he has known Burgoyne since 1989, when he interviewed her for a faculty position at MU. He said her donation is the largest ever made by a faculty member in the College of Arts and Science.

O’Brien mentioned the variety of accolades Burgoyne has won, including W.K. Kellogg and Fulbright fellowships and the William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence.

The announcement closed with a short interactive theatrical performance by MU students. Entitled “Parts of Speech,” the performance was set in a college English class, where students discussed freedoms of speech and religion after encountering a campus evangelist named “Brother Carl.”

“To set up a difficult dialogue, we want everyone to understand that are different points of view, and we have to respect different points of view,” Burgoyne said.

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