UNL receives $5 million from Johnny Carson estate

Released on 07/26/2005, at 12:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., July 26th, 2005 —

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has received a $5 million gift from the estate of Johnny Carson for endowed support of programs in theatre, film and broadcasting. This gift brings to more than $11 million the total philanthropic support given to his alma mater.

The bequest establishes the Johnny Carson Fund for Theatre, Film and Broadcasting. Annual income from this endowment will provide support to the Department of Theater Arts at the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts and the broadcast program at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

In November the university announced a $5.3 million gift from Carson for support of theatre and film programs. Of that gift, $4.3 million is for renovation and expansion of the Temple Building at UNL, home to the theatre program and where Carson studied. Another $1 million created an endowment to keep performance spaces current with latest advances in lighting and sound technologies and for general support of students and programs within the theatre department.

"These tremendous gifts commemorate Johnny Carson's impressive legacy, both on this campus and around the world," UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman said. "It brings great distinction to UNL and encourages two colleges to work collaboratively on programs between broadcasting and theatre and film."

As a memorial to Carson and his generosity, the university will rename the Department of Theatre Arts the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film. The name was approved by the Board of Regents in June and is pending final approval by the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education this summer.

Throughout his successful career, Carson maintained a strong relationship with his university. In the 1970s he established an endowed scholarship to assist outstanding Nebraska high school graduates.

In 1988, he provided a gift toward construction of the Lied Center for Performing Arts. The black box theatre adjoining the main stage was renamed the Johnny Carson Theater in his honor.

"I got my start in the Temple Building and have never forgotten the impact of my academic studies at the University of Nebraska on my life and career," Carson said in November, just over two months before his death. "It is my hope that this gift will enable future generations of theatre and film students to learn their craft . . . which will enable them to pursue their goals, just as I did."

Tentative plans call for renovation of the Temple Building to begin in November with completion slated for the 2006-07 school year. The building will receive a new black box theatre and film sound stage for students to use in their productions; a newly remodeled and expanded scene shop and updated lighting facilities; new computer-aided design and theatre class lab space; new offices for attracting additional graduate assistants; enhanced storage facilities; and an updated lobby for the Howell Theatre. When completed, the new addition will connect the Temple Building to the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center. John Carson was born in Corning, Iowa, on Oct. 23, 1925, and grew up in Norfolk, Neb. He served in World War II in the Navy as an ensign before enrolling at the University of Nebraska in 1947. He received a bachelor of arts degree in radio and speech with a minor in physics in 1949.

The University of Nebraska Foundation is a nonprofit charitable organization supplementing support for students, faculty, facilities and programs at the University of Nebraska's four campuses through gifts from alumni, friends, corporations and other foundations.

CONTACTS: Robb Crouch, Director of Public Relations, NU Foundation, (402) 472-2151
Giacomo "Jack" Oliva, Dean, Fine & Performing Arts, (402) 472-9339; and
Will Norton Jr., Dean, Journalism & Mass Communications, (402) 472-8269