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A Fine legacy: Bequest from longtime Theater Emory patron will support student experiences

Theater Emory performs Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Saralee Fine, a longtime patron of Theater Emory, has bequeathed $500,000 to the company. Photo by Ann Watson.

Theater Emory has received a $500,000 bequest from the estate of Saralee Fine, a longtime patron. It is the single largest gift in the history of Theater Emory, and a milestone investment that advances Emory College’s One Emory commitment to the creation of new works, faculty excellence and the student experience.

Fine’s generosity redefines the possibilities for Theater Emory, a unique professional theater company where undergraduates work alongside professional artists. Her gift, which will create an endowed scholarship and a program fund for travel and special projects, will expand student opportunities, increase the profile of productions and make them more accessible at Emory and in the world.

“This gift is a statement of Saralee’s enduring belief in creativity, and it will be an enduring tribute to her spirit,” says Pat Miller, a retired senior lecturer of theater studies. As Theater Emory’s former managing director, Miller worked closely with Fine during her three years as president of the theater’s board of directors.

Fine, who died in 2016, had taught medieval through Renaissance literature courses at Kennesaw State University and Oglethorpe University. Her specialty was Shakespeare.

She had been devoted to Theater Emory since the late 1980s and knew firsthand the impact that philanthropy has on the ability to develop and sustain artistic creation. She and her former husband, Robert, had previously endowed the Fine Award, for the best student actor in a production.

“She believed in the value of students working with professionals and was especially intrigued by our new play development process, frequently attending rehearsals to observe,” says Miller.

Her bequest expands student opportunities, making it possible for student showcases in New York City and even a potential production at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, says Leslie Taylor, former theater studies department chair and Theater Emory’s resident set and costume designer. 

“Being able to take new work, by faculty or students, beyond the confines of Emory has the potential to both increase the profile of our productions and also make them more accessible,” Taylor says.

Brent Glenn, the company’s artistic director, describes the bequest as transformational for Theater Emory.

“Saralee Fine’s gift will indeed leave an indelible mark on Theater Emory as well as the undergraduates who are involved in the company,” Glenn says. “This is a gift from someone who truly appreciated the experience we provide for students and is a humbling reminder of how many lives the arts can impact.”

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