LAWRENCE — A $400,000 gift from a University of Kansas alumna who devoted decades of her life to acting and volunteering with the Lawrence Community Theatre will benefit the KU School of Music and the Department of Dance.
The bequest from the estate of Jane Wofford Malin of Lawrence establishes Malin Opportunity Funds for Dance and Music, with $200,000 going to each area for unrestricted use. The gift to the Department of Dance is the largest the department has received.
Michelle Heffner Hayes, professor and chair of the Department of Dance, expressed her gratitude and said the donation would provide new possibilities for the department.
“The Malin Opportunity Fund will allow us to be more responsive to the needs of our students and faculty,” Hayes said. “We can bring in guest artists for longer residencies, fund travel to training intensives, bring in entrepreneurial and innovative thinkers, and produce student and faculty work in professional venues in the United States and abroad.”
Malin, who was raised in Lawrence, died in August 2016 at age 90. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in zoology from KU in 1945 and then turned to her passion, French, to earn a master of arts degree in French from KU in 1947. She received her doctorate in French literature from University of Texas in Austin in 1961 and was an associate professor of French at the University of Houston until she retired in 1982.
She studied French literature at McGill University in Montreal and at the Sorbonne in Paris for two years under a Fulbright grant. While at the University of Houston, she taught a variety of subjects in the French department, served as department chair and directed plays in both French and Spanish. She was decorated by the French government with the Chevalier des Palmes Academiques, a national order for distinguished academics and figures in the world of culture and education.
Soon after retirement, she returned to Lawrence and moved into her childhood home, which her father had designed and built. Malin immersed herself in her hometown’s community theater. She acted in 20 plays presented at the Lawrence Community Theatre until 2005, including an acclaimed role in the two-woman play “Grace and Glorie” that won her a regional best-actress award from the American Association of Community Theatre in 1999.
She volunteered at the theater in every capacity, from serving on the board and working in the office to ushering and baking treats to serve at intermission. Malin received a Phoenix Award in 2006 from the city of Lawrence for her work as a volunteer in the arts. In 2010, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lawrence Community Theatre board.
Robert Walzel, dean of the School of Music, said the Malin Opportunity Fund would help students perform and present research away from campus.
“Jane Malin was a passionate lover of the performing arts and supported the School of Music for many years, and in many ways,” Walzel said. “Her wonderful estate gift allows her legacy to continue to impact students who follow their dreams for careers as music professionals.”
KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.