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NewsSep 5, 2017

Lesley receives anonymous gift of nearly $7M

Philanthropy will fund 140-seat screening room, spur expansion of College of Art and Design animation and more

sky view of campus

Lesley University has received nearly $7 million from an anonymous donor, one of the most significant gifts in our 108-year history. The $6,864,387 gift will expand our College of Art and Design’s digitally based curriculum in animation, digital filmmaking, illustration and graphic design.

“This generous gift enables Lesley to extend its leadership in developing next generation animators and digital effects professionals,” says President Jeff A. Weiss. “It allows us to develop future innovators in these fields, and do so in the best facilities in the region.”

Weiss adds, “Critical to our mission, this gift will help enable our faculty, who are themselves leaders in their professions, to work with our students to develop more effective narratives and communicate in more powerful and persuasive ways about key challenges facing our society.”

This anonymous gift will fund the construction of new studios, a 140-seat screening room and other spaces for programs in animation, digital filmmaking, illustration and other digital media. As a result, the gift will help make the College of Art and Design the only New England art school to expand into these fields using visual effects (VFX).

Woman manipulating small robot figure in front of a camera set-up on a tripod
A College of Art and Design filmmaker sets up a shot.

Marylou Batt, vice president for operations and administration, says the expansion includes the addition of about 11,000 square feet of new teaching and academic space in 1815 Massachusetts Ave. (University Hall). The building is adjacent to the LEED Gold-certified Lunder Arts Center, which opened in 2015. “Construction of this state-of-the art facility will begin later this fall and the university anticipates opening the new Digital Animation Center in late spring of 2018,” Batt adds.

“As these important enhancements ensure that Lesley remains at the vanguard of digitally focused arts education, they also demonstrate our commitment to Cambridge and solidify our role as a nexus for the arts,” says Richard Zauft, dean of the College of Art and Design. “This gift is really about, and for, the students, more than anything.”

The gift is the latest milestone in the 105-year legacy of our College of Art and Design. Founded in 1912 as the School of Practical Art, it later expanded into the Art Institute of Boston, joined Lesley in 1998, and received its current name in 2013.

The gift-funded upgrades will include:

  • A 140-seat screening room
  • Interdisciplinary animation  studio, visual effects studio and a digital fabrication studio
  • Drawing studio/classroom
  • Digital computer labs and an advanced academic computing lab and render farm
  • Other offices, conference rooms and storage

The new construction is another hallmark of Lesley’s competitive advantage, which Zauft alluded to back in 2015, at the grand opening of the Lunder Arts Center. Then, he noted that there are 42 independent colleges of art and design in the country, but none of them is part of a university that has a sister college of liberal arts, as Lesley does, where art students can also study business, foreign languages, education, and much more.

Lesley Board of Trustees Chair Hans Strauch agrees that this latest milestone fits perfectly with our mission and strategy.

“This transformative gift demonstrates the appeal of Lesley University’s mission, supports the growth of our College of Art and Design, and helps advance our efforts to infuse the arts in all academic disciplines,” Strauch says.