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Thursday, January 20, 2022

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President Hirshman with donors Terry O’Donnell (left) and Carey Wall. President Hirshman with donors Terry O’Donnell (left) and Carey Wall.

Faculty Give $2.4M to Musical Theatre

The gift endows a faculty position, enabling musical theatre students to continue to learn from top experts in the field.
By Christianne Penunuri

Professors emeriti Carey Wall and Terry O’Donnell have partnered on a $2.4 million dollar gift to SDSU’s musical theater program.

Their gift will endow a faculty position in the nationally renowned program and ensure SDSU’s musical theatre students will continue to have opportunities to learn from top faculty members.

“It is a momentous day for the University,” said SDSU President Elliot Hirshman. “This support for musical theatre will impact thousands of students, faculty, staff, alumni and emeriti. I am thrilled to be moving a critical program forward.”

As one of only two master of fine arts programs in the nation, SDSU prepares emerging artists for careers as performers, directors, music directors, choreographers and educators in the field of Musical Theatre. The two-year program is unique in its integration of conservatory-style training with academic study.

Students and graduates of the master of fine arts Musical Theatre Program have performed on and off Broadway, in regional theatres, in national and international tours, and on local stages. Perhaps most importantly, graduates ensure the legacy of this unique American art form by teaching in colleges and universities across the nation.

“Our faculty are the cornerstone of the SDSU experience," said Joyce Gattas, dean of SDSU’ College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts. “It is fitting that two such committed and dedicated faculty would collaborate on this gift to ensure the future of SDSU musical theatre program."

About the Donors

Wall is a professor emerita from the College of Arts & Letters. She was a professor of English (specializing in American Literature) for 37 years, and served as the department chair for a dozen years.

She is a founding member of SDSU Phi Beta Kappa Chapter, and since 2002 has been the chapter’s corresponding secretary. She has supported the musical theatre program for the last 10 years through scholarships and support of the archive.

"I'm impressed by the quality of the faculty's work, by the changes they bring about in their graduate students in the course of two years, as well as in the research component of the master of fine arts program,” Wall said. “My gift will help to train the next generation of musical theatre educators for universities across the country. I hope others will contribute to the MFA in Musical Theatre program so the archive can be expanded and the graduate students can have access to an additional layer of specialized instructors."

O’Donnell retired in 2008 after 35 years as a professor in both theatre and music. He is a founding member of the musical theatre master of fine arts program, and taught in the program since its inception in 1982. O’Donnell is well-known across campus as the carillonneur of the 204-bell University Carillon.

“Our unique MFA Musical Theatre curriculum is designed to balance both performance skills and scholarship; It is compelling to see what this program does to develop young artists,” said O’Donnell. “Over the last 30 years, I’ve observed our program graduates make extraordinary contributions both as artists and educators.”