Theater Department honors, thanks benefactor Steven Fox

On Friday, April 10, the St. Olaf Theater Department hosted a tea event to thank alumnus Steven Fox ’77 for his sizable financial support. The event took place in the King’s Room of Trollhaugen Dining Room. Attendees consisted primarily of Theater Department faculty as well as several members of the cast and crew of Big Fish.

Fox made a large donation to the Theater Department’s 2014-2015 production budget, which made the grand scale of shows such as Big Fish possible.

In addition, Fox also made a donation to establish the Patrick J. Quade Endowed Chair in Theater, as well as the Robert Schultz Endowed Chair in Music. Both chairs are named after former St. Olaf professors that were influential to Fox during his time at St. Olaf.

During his speech, Associate Provost Dan Dressen fondly recalled being present at the meeting in which Quade and Schultz were informed that the chairs would be named in their honor.

Professor of Theater Karen Wilson ’77 was appointed as the first Patrick J. Quade Endowed Chair. She will hold the position for four years, after which it will rotate to another member of the theater faculty.

“It was a thrill to be named the Patrick J. Quade Chair in Theater, and it’s a wonderful gift to our department,” Wilson said.

Some readers may be confused as to exactly what an endowed chair is. It is in fact not the same as a department chair. Dressen explained in more detail.

“An endowed chair is a donation that pays for a faculty line. It pays for all the salary, all the benefits, and provides a discretionary professional account for the holder of that chair,” Dressen said. “The contribution these days to endow an existing line is $1.5 million. That was the case as we are endowing a line that Karen held, and we are endowing a line now in music that Chris Aspaas is holding. Steven has given a donation to endow both those chairs.”

Attendees of the event enjoyed a variety of refreshments. Beverages included tea and lemonade. In terms of food, options consisted of miniature sandwiches, breads baked with various cheeses melted into them and small pastas. There were also tiny desserts – mostly cookies and combinations of chocolate, cream and berries.

Beverages and hors d’oeuvres aside, the event consisted of four speakers expressing thanks to Fox.

First to speak was Associate Professor of Theater and Department Chair Brian Bjorklund, who emphasized the faculty’s gratitude for Fox’s contributions.

Bjorklund was followed by Dressen and Associate Dean of Fine Arts Mary Griep who detailed the significance of Fox’s donation from an administrative perspective and expressed their hope that current students would one day be inspired by Fox.

The last of the four speakers was Big Fish sound designer Becky Raines ’16. Raines brought a more personal touch to her speech as she recounted a personal anecdote of her excitement upon the arrival of the department’s new soundboard that was purchased with money Fox had donated.

Then it was Fox’s turn to speak. He began by thanking the Theater Department and St. Olaf for having him and reasserted his appreciation for all that the college and its faculty had done for him during his time as a student at St. Olaf.

He ended his speech on a fun note, sharing stories about Wilson, with whom he had attended St. Olaf. With a grin he informed the students in the room of where in the Theater Building they could find a photograph of a young Wilson.

As a gift, Wilson presented Fox with framed certificates that said a star had been named after Fox.

“There is now a star in the sky called the ‘Steven Fox Theater Star,’ and it will shine on forever,” Wilson said.