Generosity sets the stage for Dal's School of Performing Arts

Fountains donate $10m to the new School

- May 15, 2013

Celebrating the Fountains' gift (L to R): Katharine Fountain; Dal students Sarah Deller, Kenzie Delo and Warda Limaye; Fred and Elizabeth Fountain. (Danny Abriel photos)
Celebrating the Fountains' gift (L to R): Katharine Fountain; Dal students Sarah Deller, Kenzie Delo and Warda Limaye; Fred and Elizabeth Fountain. (Danny Abriel photos)

There’s nothing unusual about joyful noise filling the halls of the Dalhousie Arts Centre — for Music and Theatre students, that’s just an ordinary school day.

But the euphoric cheers that careened off the walls of the Sculpture Court Tuesday morning marked an extremely special occasion: the announcement of a new Dalhousie School of Performing Arts, supported by a major gift from two of Halifax’s greatest benefactors.

“It is my sincere pleasure and honour to announce that Fred and Elizabeth Fountain have chosen to invest $10 million in the School of Performing Arts at Dalhousie University,” announced Dal President Tom Traves, to rapturous applause.

The school will bring together the departments of Music and Theatre as a single academic unit. With everything from costume studies and acting to music performance and musicology now under one banner, the $10 million gift will support a wide variety of cross-discipline initiatives. These include a high-profile visiting arts program, more robust scholarship support, and expanded outreach and mentoring programming.

The gift is the largest ever to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and one of the largest in Dal’s history.

A source of pride and inspiration

For the Fountains — Fred, Dalhousie’s chancellor, and his wife Elizabeth, who were joined by their daughter Katharine — the donation continues a long legacy of giving to the university, as well as to other causes in education, the arts and mental health.

“Fred and I wanted to do something special for Dalhousie for the Bold Ambitions campaign; it was just a question of what that special something would be,” explained Ms. Fountain. “It had to be meaningful for us, it had to be transformative and it had to benefit not just a few, but many people. And we feel our gift to the School of Performing Arts achieves all three of these goals.”

The School of Performing Arts won’t officially be launched until July 1, 2014, but the impact of the Fountains’ gift will be felt right away: in new scholarships, in new mentoring and artist-in-residence programs and in other initiatives designed to provide unique learning opportunities for students.

“This is much more than a change in an academic administrative unit,” explained Robert Summerby-Murray, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “This is a change that has vast consequences for us at Dalhousie, for Halifax and, I’d suggest, for Nova Scotia and Eastern Canada.”

“This school, which will be the biggest of its kind in Eastern Canada, will help foster and promote outreach and partnerships with other educational institutions and professional performing arts organizations,” said Dr. Traves. “The talent that it attracts, trains and retains will be a source of pride and inspiration for Dalhousie and, indeed, for the community behind our campus.”

Read also: Becoming a national centre for performing arts education

Demonstrating the impressive foundation the new school will build on, the celebration event featured two energetic student performances: a string quartet featuring Music students Heemin Choi, Artem Kolesov, Warda Limaye and Benjamin Marmen, and a performance by Theatre students Sarah Deller and Kenzie Delo, making their way through the crowd for a selection from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

The students also presented the Fountains with gifts of their own: two conductor’s batons from Music and two director’s chairs from Theatre.

“This donation will allow students to continue to hone their craft with more specific and rigorous training than before, ensuring that a new generation of artists will be able to enter the world and make valuable contributions to society,” said student Sarah Deller.

A gift for all

The Fountains have a long history of supporting the arts, with major donations to local institutions such as Symphony Nova Scotia and Neptune Theatre. Mr. Fountain has served on the boards of several local and national arts institutions, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the National Arts Centre Foundation and the Scotia Festival of Music.

“The laws of the universe are fundamentally based on physics, chemistry, music and theatre,” he told the crowd, following it with a pitch for governments to support the arts and arts education.

Mr. Fountain also expressed his gratitude for Dalhousie’s commitment to undertaking much-needed renovations to the existing Arts Centre, including a planned expansion, which will help further the new school’s goals.

“We’re very happy to do something dramatic and sonorous here at Dalhousie,” he said.

As Dr. Summerby-Murray noted, the gift and the new school won’t just benefit students in Music and Theatre: it will benefit the students across campus who enjoy taking in arts performances, as well as patrons from Halifax and beyond who appreciate the impressive creative works of Dal’s students and faculty.

“Our family is very fortunate to be able to make things happen that will hopefully make a positive difference in the lives of others,” said Ms. Fountain. “May our gift be a gift to you all.”

For more:

This article is part of the Dalhousie Difference series, exploring what the power of philantrophy means to the university and introducing and showcasing some of the 50 innovative projects in development. Learn more at


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