Before 2007, the largest scholarship a theatre major at UM could receive was $100. Simply put, there were no substantial endowments for theatre scholarships. Now, thanks to alumni, faculty and staff members who love UM theatre, there are two.
Patricia Tarr Leavitt Scholarship
Terry (BAEd 70) and Dinah (BA 69) Swan established a $25,000 endowment for the Patricia Tarr Leavitt Scholarship, named for Dinah’s mother. Mississippi students majoring in theatre arts are eligible for the scholarship.
The Oxford couple was surprised that the Department of Theatre Arts was not able to offer substantial scholarships to Mississippi students.
“That means many of our most talented Mississippi students cannot attend the state’s flagship university,” Terry said. “We want to change that one scholarship at a time, and we hope other alumni and friends of Ole Miss Theatre will do likewise.”
Dinah said that now, more than ever, it is critical to support the arts.
“The human spirit needs the arts,” she said. “The arts shouldn’t be viewed as leisure add-on. Frequent exposure to high-quality art is transformational. Good art can make us better people by touching something inside that reacquaints us with our own being or essence.”
Eddie Upton and Joe Turner Cantú are not your usual scholarship benefactors: They both work on campus. Cantú is an associate professor in the Department of Theatre Arts, and Upton is a systems analyst manager in the Office of Information Technology. Most faculty members have not created scholarships for students in their own departments. However, Cantú and Upton have created a scholarship for students pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting.
“It is a difficult discipline with a lot of hard work,” said Cantú. “But not a lot of scholarships are created for theatre students.”
To enroll in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program, juniors and seniors go through a rigorous jury process. Many apply, but only 18 students are chosen each year. From that group, one will receive the annual Cantú/Upton Scholarship.
Cantú and Upton seeded the endowment with a lump sum and are using payroll deductions to grow it. “This is something that we just hope to increase every year until we retire,” said Upton.
“You don’t have to be filthy rich or have some sort of windfall to make a difference,” said Cantú, who was awarded the Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teacher of Freshmen in 2006. “Every little bit makes a big difference in the life of a student who is sometimes struggling month to month.”