Joy Abbott, widow of the late playwright George Abbott, announced Thursday, Oct. 25, the bequest of her share of rights and future royalties from her husband’s earnings to the Boyer College of Music and Dance.
Abbott announced the gift, valued at a minimum of $6 million, at a reception at Sardi’s restaurant in New York City’s Theatre District. The donation will provide the funding for the new George and Joy Abbott Center for Musical Theater at the Boyer College.
George Abbott, the creator of such classic Broadway musicals as “Damn Yankess,” “The Pajama Game,” and “Pal Joey,” and a forerunner in shaping Broadway history, has been noted for his influence on legends like Carol Burnett, Hal Prince, Bob Fosse, Gene Kelly, and Shirley MacLaine. Adopting the nickname “Mr. Broadway,” he went on to present over more than 100 works for the Broadway stage, earning seven Tony Awards, including a 1976 Tony for lifetime achievement and a Pulitzer Prize for the musical “Fiorello.” Mr. Abbot died of a stroke in 1995 at the age of 107 , leaving his prizes, money, and memorabilia to his wife.
Joy Abbott, a graduate of Temple University, said she wishes to carry out her husband’s theatrical history. “I always wanted to ensure George’s legacy was preserved in a way that would benefit future generations,” Abbot told Playbill.com.
Temple President Ann Weaver Hart addressed the importance of the donation. “Her unprecedented gift to the Boyer College will permanently alter the performing arts landscape at Temple,” Hart told the Temple Times.
The bequest will increase the size and education capabilities of the theater and music departments. When asked about the projected center, Robert T. Stroker, dean of the Boyer College, told the Temple Times, “The Abbott Center will attract some of the most accomplished professionals in the field. This historic gift will allow us to continue Mr. Abbot’s legacy and teach the craft of musical theater in much the same way he did throughout his extraordinary career – as a mentor to scores of young people.”
Morgan Stewart, a junior music education major, expressed her desire to see the donation go to providing more graduate classes and bring in more guest talent from the region. “I’d like to see the money provide more master classes and guest recitalists. Philadelphia, in general, is a great place for prestigious artists,” Stewart said told the Associated Press.
The gift will also grant Boyer College the ability to create a bachelor of fine arts program in musical theater, a collaboration between the Boyer College and Temple’s theater program.
While the center will attract scholars, teachers, artists, and trained technicians, it will also be provide space for George Abbott’s sufficient supply of theater memorabilia. Receiving a degree from this program will allow graduates to head out into the field with a broader and more complete sense of musical theater and all of its aspects, said Linda Fiore, the Boyer College director of College Relations & External Affairs.
Joy Abbott attributes her munificent donation to the education of those with musical and theatrical passions.
“This is a way to tribute his legacy and dedication to mentoring young artists.”
Matthew Daddona can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.