Helping performing arts students soar
By Dawn Morrison
Photography: Danny Abriel
The MacLennan Society: Celebrating Loyalty
The MacLennan Society celebrates alumni and friends who make the decision year-over-year to give back to Dalhousie. Their unwavering support has been an essential cornerstone, helping our community achieve its goals over the past 200 years. The society was named for Rod MacLennan (BSc’60, LLD’98) in honour of his longstanding and far-reaching support.
Over the coming year, we are pleased to bring you profiles of MacLennan Society members, a number of whom are employed as faculty and staff at Dalhousie. Lesley Brechin is one such alumna and a dedicated staff member, who has achieved Silver status in The MacLennan Society, after giving consistently to Dal for more than 25 years. This is Lesley’s giving story.
For Lesley Brechin (BA (Theatre)‘90), working in the Fountain School of Performing Arts (FSPA) gives her unique perspective as a Dalhousie donor.
“Music and theatre are my passions, and I love the students — they are the reason I do what I do,” she says. “Working in the Fountain School, it’s really easy to see the need, and where students could use the most support — whether it’s financial help, equipment or extracurricular areas. As an employee, I get to see directly where I am making a difference.”
Discovering her passion
Lesley’s contributions have made a huge difference for more than 30 years, but she didn’t set out to create a legacy of giving. Initially, she arrived on the Dal campus as a student in 1980.
“I was going to be an accountant,” she says. “That was the plan, but after two years in the Commerce program, I realized the classes I enjoyed the most were my theatre electives. My parents weren’t ready for me to pursue a career on the stage, so I took a business college program that landed me back at Dal working in Word Processing Services, before the days of desktop computers,” she says.
She has spent half of her 34 years at Dal working in a position more in keeping with her passion: 13 years in the department of music and, since 2014, as a valued member of the FSPA staff. Lesley is the Administrative Officer, Academic & Productions.
Commitment to the performing arts
During her career, she decided to finish her degree at Dalhousie, settling on theatre as a better educational fit. “Thanks to Dal’s tuition waiver program for employees, I finished my degree part-time, returning to the only subject I really loved — theatre,” she says.
The focus of Lesley’s giving is aimed at helping students in the performing arts financially, recognizing the hard work and dedication these students give to their studies.
“Performing arts is like two degrees: there’s the academic study and also the performance aspect,” Lesley says. “In a performing arts program, students have many rehearsals and concerts. Our students are incredibly committed to their programs, so it’s really difficult for those in financial need to find part time jobs around their academic and performance schedule,” she says. “They work really hard. I wanted to help.”
Countless students have benefitted from Lesley’s support, which she says also allows her to give back to the place that shaped her education and career.
“Dalhousie is a great place. The university has allowed me to work and study in a field that I love, and I think that’s amazing. I wanted to do something to give back,” she says.
“I’m a philanthropic person, and so I have always believed in giving to good causes. I thought to myself, what better cause than Dalhousie — a place that’s given me so much.”