By From the Lowell Sun
By Nancye Tuttle
LOWELL -- Nancy Donahue is known far and wide for her support of Lowell's arts community.
From Merrimack Repertory Theatre and Whistler House Museum of Art to the American Textile History Museum and New England Quilt Museum, Donahue, along with her husband, attorney Richard K. Donahue, has given millions of dollars and countless hours to make sure these institutions survive and flourish.
Donahue does it again tonight.
The University of Massachusetts Lowell will announce the establishment of the Nancy Donahue Professorship of the Arts at the Sounds of Spring concert in Durgin Hall.
The Donahues' $500,000 gift will endow an arts professorship and provide $15,000 each year on a rotating basis to a UMass Lowell music, art or theater professor to enhance their programs.
Kay George Roberts, a UMass Lowell music professor since 1978, is the first Donahue arts professor.
The gift is special, since it is designated for the arts, said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan.
"I am pleased, since it's the university's first professorship in the arts. We've had other endowed professorships in math, science and nano-technology, but this will enhance the university's arts programs, forge an affiliation with the local arts community and enhance student life," Meehan said.
Donahue is thrilled to make this large contribution to the arts at the university which she and her family have long supported.
"The arts are important and underfunded. It's important for younger kids to have exposure to the arts and older people to enjoy them. They bring civility and stability to all of us," she said.
Roberts was a natural first choice. She directs the UML Orchestra and is music director of Lowell-based New England Orchestra and principal conductor of Opera North, Inc. in Philadelphia.
A champion of music education, Roberts is founder and director of the UML String Project, a community outreach program for Lowell public school children. She is also the founder and conductor of the Lowell Youth Orchestra. She frequently guest conducts at major orchestras around the country and has served as a cover conductor with the Boston Symphony and other major orchestras.
"I have known Kay over the years. We have been close with her string project and got to know each other when I was at the university with the University Foundation. She has done a great job and is recognized all over," said Donahue.
Roberts is delighted to be selected.
"I am honored to be the first recipient of the Nancy Donahue Professorship of the Arts," she said in an e-mail. "To make a difference in the lives of others and to bring music to the Lowell community has been a wonderful experience for me. This professorship is a recognition that will motivate me to do even more."
Seats are available to tonight's concert at 7 at Durgin Hall. Students will be admitted free.