BYU established the $5 million Mary Lou Fulton Chair in Theatre and Media Arts during an announcement ceremony Feb. 26 in the Pardoe Theatre of BYU’s Harris Fine Arts Center. This endowment, the largest single academic chair in BYU’s history, will support students through scholarships, grants, awards, and employment and internship opportunities. Additionally, the endowment will augment faculty support of mentoring, provide improved and upgraded learning equipment, and commission and develop new theater work for BYU venues.
“Our aim with each of these projects and programs is to more effectively prepare students to become sensitive, skilled, and spiritually mature professionals in the world of theater and media,” said Bob Nelson, department chair. “The Fultons’ gift will free us to explore more fully our potential as students and teachers.”
“The BYU community is grateful to Mary Lou and her husband, Ira, for their generosity that directly and meaningfully impacts students’ education,” said BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson. “We pay special tribute to Mary Lou by naming this chair in the Department of Theatre and Media Arts in her honor.”
Arizona natives Ira and Mary Lou Fulton began a mutually rewarding relationship with BYU in 1999 after visiting campus and feeling a kinship with faculty, administration, and students.
“Students at BYU are learning their crafts so well, and they’re in such wonderful company,” said Mary Lou. “They have the opportunity today to produce art that isn’t so degrading to people and is done with care, love, thought, and understanding. When these students leave the university and go into the world, I could almost promise them what they have to offer is going to be accepted beautifully.”
Many students are grateful for the creation of the chair which promises to enrich their time at BYU. This includes Chantelle S. Squires, ’04, who is working to complete a documentary film paid for, until now, with money from her own pocket.
“The grant will help tremendously as I finish my film, which will give me a head start for my future professional career,” said Squires, a media arts major from Lehi, Utah, who plans to enter the documentary in film festivals. “From directing to producing to editing, this has all been part of a learning experience I couldn’t have received from a book or a class. My experience was and will be helped by the Fultons’ generosity. Plus, it’s been a great chance for my professors to mentor me throughout the process.”
In addition to the chair, the Fultons have made contributions of impact campuswide, including purchasing one of the fastest supercomputers in American higher education (also named in honor of Mary Lou), helping to fund the new Joseph F. Smith Building and Athletic Complex, and financing many student scholarships. The Fultons have also provided for improvements to the Psychology Department, the School of Technology, the Harold B. Lee Library, and the Museum of Art.
“To Mary Lou and Ira, and on behalf of the innumerable students, staff, faculty, and patrons this chair will touch, we express sincere gratitude,” said Stephen Jones, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications. “Their hope for and faith in our students will certainly serve as an inspiration to them as they study, learn, and create.”