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OCU announces dance faculty chair position

Oklahoma City University has received a $1.2 million gift to establish an endowed chair in its dance and entertainment school, university officials announced today.

The gift from the estate of longtime Oklahoma City University supporter Ann Lacy will be used to create the Jo Rowan Chair in Dance.

Lacy, who passed away in August, is the namesake of the university’s Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment. Rowan was the chair and founder of the school. She retired in June 2022 after a 42-year tenure that put OCU dance on the national and global map.

Current Dance and Entertainment Dean Melanie Shelley announced that the endowed chair will be awarded to ballet professor and Ballet Department Chair Jessica Fay.

“Jessica is a more-than-deserving recipient,” Shelley said. “It was Ann’s wish that this endowed position be created in Jo’s name, and Jessica was mentored by Jo in ballet for many years. 

“This is a fitting way to pay tribute to the legacies of both Ann and Jo, while recognizing Jessica’s impact on the school and our ballet students.” 

The gift continues a long tradition of support for OCU by Lacy. A trustee emerita and recipient of an honorary doctor of humane letters from OCU, Lacy was one of the lead donors to the university’s centennial campaign, “Lighting the World – One Star at a Time.” Her love and support for the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment was unmatched. 

Lacy’s grandson, Chris Lawson, said his grandmother “would be as thrilled as I am to see Jo remembered in such a significant way.”

“Jo Rowan is one of the most accomplished and revered dance instructors in the world,” said Lawson, who is president and chief executive officer of The Ann Lacy Foundation. “The impact her philosophy and teaching style has had is immeasurable – not just on students but everyone around her. The high-quality work Dean Shelley and the entire school continues to produce is proof.”

Rowan said she was happily surprised and honored to learn of the creation of the dance chair through the generous estate gift. 

“Ann Lacy inspired and encouraged me. She was a unique philanthropist,” Rowan said. “She complimented our productions and the success of our graduates, but most importantly to me, she understood the creative processes and the effort that went into making the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment one of the best in the nation.  

“Endowing this chair will support and encourage our gifted faculty to continue to create innovative, pragmatic instruction. It is an example of Ann Lacy’s generous commitment to our school’s mission to produce employable performers, managers, and teachers.”

More information about the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment is available at www.okcu.edu/dance.

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