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Performing Arts

New gift establishes Robertson Emeritus Professorship in Musical Theatre

By Marilou Carlin

M-Prize 2017

Sandy (BBA ’53, MBA ’54, HLLD ’15) and Jeanne Robertson of San Francisco, California, have made a gift in the amount of $1.59 million to the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD) to create and support the Robertson Emeritus Professorship in Musical Theatre.

The Robertsons made the gift in honor of Brent Wagner, who retired last spring after serving 32 years as chair of the Department of Musical Theatre and is credited with building the department into one of the top musical theatre programs in the world. Wagner will now return to SMTD and be the first to hold the professorship.

“Our hope is that passionate and dedicated teachers and artists like Professor Wagner will come to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance as incumbents for this professorship,” said Sandy Robertson. “We’re delighted that the first individual to fill the new professorship will be the professor who inspired it.”

“We are so grateful to Sandy and Jeanne for this incredibly generous and meaningful gift,” said Aaron Dworkin, dean of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. “Brent Wagner possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of musical theatre, and we are thrilled that current and future students of the program will continue to benefit from his consummate teaching skills. We are so appreciative of the Robertson’s carefully considered support for this remarkable program and their commitment to the critically important areas of both scholarship and faculty support.”

This is the third major gift that the Robertsons have made in support of the Department of Musical Theatre. In 2011, they established the Jeanne and Sanford Robertson Scholarship Fund for musical theatre students with a $1 million gift, making an additional $1 million gift in 2014. The fund provides exceptional opportunities for the School to attract and support the most talented musical theatre students and maintain the program’s standing as one the best in the nation (recently named number one by

Sandy and Jeanne Robertson.

Sandy and Jeanne Robertson.

Sandy Robertson is the founder of the pioneering investment firm Robertson Stephens, where he helped create the financial infrastructure that has powered the nation’s rapidly growing technology sector, and he is a founding partner of the global private equity firm Francisco Partners. He has a passionate interest in theatre and has been a producer of more than a dozen different Broadway productions, including the musicals Nice Work If You Can Get It, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and An American in Paris. Most of the musicals that he has backed have featured SMTD graduates in starring, supporting or company roles in both Broadway productions and tours.

A longtime member of the U-M President’s Advisory Group, Robertson has served on U-M’s Investment Advisory Committee since it was founded in 1990. During that time the university’s endowment grew from less than $1 billion to $9.7 billion in 2016. He also served on the campaign for Michigan National Leadership Committee in the 1980s and co-chaired the Michigan Difference campaign. He and his wife, Jeanne, currently serve on the steering committee of the $4 billion Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign, and as a longtime international advocate for psychiatric research, Jeanne also serves on the National Advisory Board of the U-M Depression Center.

Robertson has received many accolades, including U-M’s David B. Hermelin Award for Fundraising Volunteer Leadership, and he was presented with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2015 for his exceptional leadership contributions to the University.

The Robertson gift supports SMTD in the university-wide Victors for Michigan campaign. SMTD seeks to raise $90 million, which includes $45 million for scholarship support and $10 million for faculty support. To date, the School has raised $83.2 million, or 92 percent of the goal, with more than two years left in the campaign. For more information about the campaign, or to make a gift to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, visit the SMTD website or call 734.764.4453.

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