By Ryan McNutt

Fred and Elizabeth Fountain join Dal Theatre and Music students onstage at Thursday’s event. (Nick Pearce photos)


Fred Fountain, Dal’s chancellor, was left temporarily speechless Thursday after witnessing some of the university’s stellar Music and Theatre students perform as part of a celebration in his family’s honour.

The occasion: the naming of Dal’s new School of Performing Arts, which will unite students and faculty in Music, Theatre, Costume and Film Studies under one academic banner. The school, announced in May, is supported by a landmark $10 million gift from Fred Fountain, his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Katherine — the largest ever received by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) and one of the largest gifts in Dal’s history.

“It seems fitting, given their gift and their steadfast commitment to the arts, that the school should bear their name,” said Dal President Richard Florizone.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is my extreme pleasure at this time to present to you, the Fountain School of Performing Arts.”


That announcement sparked one of many standing ovations from the students, faculty, staff and community members packed into the Dunn Theatre for the celebration. While the cheers for Fountains were loud, the ovations for the ceremony’s student performances were every bit as boisterous.

A showcase of student talent

Students from the Dalhousie Opera Workshop, conducted by Mary Martell, performed a stirring rendition of “Make Our Garden Grow” from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. Fourth-year acting students showcased a funny, touching scene from August Strindberg’s Ghost Sonata, currently playing as part of the DalTheatre season. Professor John Dinning gave the crowd an overview of the incredible work of Dal’s technical scenography students in making Dal’s stage productions come to life. Finally, the student jazz combo closed the event with a toe-tapping, heart-stopping musical tribute to Gershwin.

“Prepare to be blown away,” promised FASS Dean Robert Summerby-Murray, and his promise was certainly kept.


Jure Gantar, who has been part of the Department of Theatre at Dal for more than 20 years, was announced as the interim director for the Fountain School of Performing Arts. He provided an overview of just some of the initiatives the Fountains’ gift will support in its first year: new undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships and excellence awards, artists-in-residence, and new mentorship and outreach initiatives. He also reiterated the university’s commitment to fundraising for much-needed renovations and expansions to the Arts Centre.

“We are hoping that the Fountain School of Performing Arts will be an entirely new and innovative institutional priority that will integrate, rather than separate, and will be a starting point for an entire generation of young performing artists,” he said.

Thanks and appreciation

The students may have been the stars of the show, but the Fountains deservedly had the last word. Greeted by all the student performers, each wearing new “Fountain School of Performing Arts” T-shirts, Fred and Elizabeth expressed their humble appreciation for the honour of having the new school named after them.


“Whether you’re a student, graduate, faculty, staff, lecturer, administrator — we hope you’ll be always proud of your association with the Fountain School of Performing Arts at Dalhousie University,” said Elizabeth. “Thank you to all the performers for giving us the opportunity today to see you shine.”