May 7, 2020 at 2:30pm
Dane Lisser

"Their investment helps to deliver top notch student performances and innovative teachings"

Millikin University has received a generous gift of $100,000 from Dr. Paul and Shirley Stanley to support Millikin's new Center for Theatre & Dance. In addition to the $100,000 contribution, the Stanleys also made a $50,000 contribution toward the project during Millikin's "Transform MU" capital campaign.

The Stanleys are both retired following distinguished 40-year careers in the medical field; Paul as a physician specializing in internal medicine and Shirley as a clinical dietitian. The Stanleys are pillars of the Decatur, Ill., community, supporting a variety of philanthropic endeavors.

"Millikin University is very grateful for this generous and timely gift from Shirley and Paul Stanley," said Millikin President Dr. Patrick E. White. "By their support, the Stanleys affirm again their conviction of the importance of theatre and dance and all the arts to Millikin, Decatur and the world. In these uncertain times, their care and foresight inspires us all to nurture the vital role of the arts in community life and human experience."

Gina Bianchi '93, vice president for alumni & development at Millikin, added, "The Stanleys have been very loyal supporters of Millikin University over the years. As engaged community members, they see the value Millikin brings to the area. Their investment in our Center for Theatre & Dance helps to deliver top notch student performances and innovative teachings to the Millikin community and the greater Decatur region. We are grateful for their generosity."

Shirley Stanley is well known for her passion for animals and serves with the Decatur and Macon County Animal Shelter Foundation.

She also is very active in the fine arts scene at Millikin, having previously worked alongside the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra to help with the Moscow Ballet's performance of "The Nutcracker" and the Alabama Ballet's performance of "Sleeping Beauty."

"We've been interested in that building, in theory, for years, and the need for the building was so apparent. The Millikin School of Theatre & Dance is such a strong component for Millikin and for its sustainability," said Stanley. "Neither Paul nor I are Millikin alums, but we feel closer to Millikin. We consider Millikin ours; we attend symphonies, dance performances and theatre performances. To be able to partake in the fine arts program adds to the enrichment of our lives."

Millikin University broke ground on its new Center for Theatre & Dance during a ceremony held on May 18, 2018. Construction is nearly complete, and the Center will open in the fall.

The new Center offers a centralized location for creativity to be cultivated, fostered and displayed, and provides a new venue for Millikin performing arts to delight, inform and inspire audiences.

The $29 million project features a 260-seat flexible theatre, which includes an orchestra pit, balcony and tech gallery with a tension wire grid. The new building also features lighting and sound labs, a costume studio, a costume classroom, collaboration spaces, and offices and support facilities for current staff with room for growth.

Located in the middle of campus, Millikin's new Center for Theatre & Dance will also incorporate four acting studios, two dance studios, two design classrooms and practice rooms as well as all new modern theatre equipment and LED lights.  

As personal friends to faculty, staff and students alike, the Stanleys are happy to lend their support to Millikin University and the surrounding community.

"One of the most important parts about the new Center for Theatre & Dance is the impact it will have on recruitment," said Stanley. "This building will make quite the impression on students who are interested in studying theatre. The Center will help secure Millikin's national role in performing arts education."

Gifts to the Center for Theatre & Dance have been made to support fundraising efforts by a community of generous Millikin alumni, community leaders and the Board of Trustees. Fundraising efforts are ongoing. For more information on how to help support the Center for Theatre & Dance, visit