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Creativity personified

By Frank Provenzano
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Stamps gift to transform School of Art and Design

As a symbol of gratitude and recognition of the vision of Penny and E. Roe Stamps, the University of Michigan Board of Regents in September approved the renaming of the art-and-design school to the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design.

E. Roe Stamps and Penny Stamps with a student at the 2006 dedication of the Stamps Studios.

E. Roe Stamps and Penny Stamps with a student at the 2006 dedication of the Stamps Studios.

The total commitment to U-M’s School of Art and Design—where Penny Stamps is an alumna (BS, Design ’66)—is $40 million, $32.5 million from the Stamps family foundations, and a $7.5 million match from the University. The transformative support makes the Stamps the most generous donors in the School of Art and Design’s history and among the most charitable benefactors to an art-and-design school in the United States. At U-M the Stamps join such transformative donors as Stephen M. Ross, A. Alfred Taubman, and Horace and Mary Rackham who have been honored by having schools named in recognition of their generosity.

A radical vote of confidence

The Stamps funding bolsters support for programs and facilities on campus while adding Stamps Creative Work Scholarships to provide merit scholarships for a significant number of art-and-design students.

“This is a radical vote of confidence for the current direction of the school and the progress it has made in reinventing art/design education within a university context,” says Dean Gunalan Nadarajan, who succeeded Dean Bryan Rogers on July 1. During Rogers’ tenure, the School of Art and Design focused on unifying art-making and designing. In addition, Rogers introduced programs integrating contemporary information and imaging technologies.

“It has been very rewarding for us to be a part of A&D’s growth and development during these past 15 years,” says Penny Stamps. “We have been pleased to see our investments make a compelling difference to the school’s excellence and prominence, and our involvement has escalated as a result. We are enormously proud of the programs we support and want to ensure that they continue to benefit students for generations.”

The gift coincides with U-M’s recent efforts to recognize the vital role of the arts within the University. In the past eight years, U-M has committed $84 million to the arts, including $5 million for art studio space for School of Art and Design faculty and graduate students, support for the U-M Symphony Band tour of China, $9 million for the building addition to the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and programmatic initiatives at the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Walking the talk

Raised in Chicago, Penny Stamps developed a lifelong passion for design as a Michigan student. She founded—and, until the mid-1990s, served as principal designer for—the Boston-based Penny W. Stamps Interiors. Though now retired, she continues to feed her passion for both design and the University. She serves on the U-M President’s Advisory Group and chairs the Dean’s Advisory Council at the School of Art and Design. She also served as co-chair of the U-M Michigan Difference Campaign, which raised $3.2 billion, and received the David B. Hermelin Award for Fundraising Volunteer Leadership, the highest recognition the University bestows on fundraising volunteers.

E. Roe Stamps, a graduate of Georgia Tech and Harvard Business School, has led a distinguished career as a financier and venture capitalist. He is co-founder and managing partner of Summit Partners, a growth equity investment firm in Boston. A recipient of the Outstanding Service Award by the National Venture Capital Association, and most recently the Alumni Achievement Award from the Harvard Business School, Stamps is an advocate for raising public awareness of the role venture capitalism plays in creating a vibrant 21st-century global economy. He is an avid cyclist, jazz enthusiast, and jazz pianist.

At the School of Art and Design, the Stamps will continue to fund programs that bring renowned creative thinkers to campus. Their weekly Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series has hosted such innovators as Bill T. Jones, Philip Glass, Oliver Stone, Marina Abramovic, Laurie Anderson, and Temple Grandin, among others. The Roman J. Witt Residency Program and the Roman J. Witt Visitors Program each invite high-profile professionals in art and design for long- and short-term residencies at the school.

Coloring Outside the Lines

The Stamps’ funding also has increased the visibility and reach of art/design work within the University culture through Work•Ann Arbor, a gallery space near central campus that provides undergraduate students with greater exhibition opportunities.

In addition to their exceptional support for the School of Art and Design, the Stamps will continue to contribute generously to the University-wide Stamps Scholars Program that supports approximately 72 students per year in U-M’s undergraduate schools. In recent years, the Stamps supported an auditorium (named Stamps Auditorium) adjacent to the Walgreen Drama Center, a commons area in the Ross Academic Center, and gifts to the School of Education and College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

“The depth of the Stamps’ support is hard to fathom,” says U-M President Mary Sue Coleman. “It is creativity personified.”

Frank Provenzano

Frank Provenzano is a former newspaper journalist. Currently, he is a freelance communications consultant, based in the Detroit area. He is an expert in the creative and theatrical arts.

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