UMass Dancers Honor Marilyn Patton on 85th Birthday
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
On December 12, 2020, UMass Dancers held the MVP 85th Birthday Gala Celebration to honor one of the most respected dance educators in the University of Massachusetts' history, Marilyn V. Patton. A longtime resident of Amherst, Ms. Patton, MVP, or Marilyn as many of her former students now know her, was Director of Dance at UMass from 1965 through 1992. And now, the grateful students who studied, grew and thrived under her tutelage have honored her with the online Gala on Dec. 12.
Under Ms. Patton's directon, dance at UMass grew from a few physical education classes tucked away in the old Phys Ed building (NOPE) on campus into a world-class professional training institution that now offers a fine arts degree in dance. Her legacy lives on in the dozens of alumni who went on to successful careers in dance performance, education, private studio management and dance administration. The list of performance credits of UMass dance graduates is enormous, too long to list here, but MVP's dancers became Rockettes, Broadway performers and major dance company concert dancers. A number of dance alumni founded professional dance companies of their own, and dozens of others started successful dance studios that are scattered across the state and country. The more administrative among UMass dancers became heads of dance departments at such respected institutions as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Bard College, Roger Williams University, Colby College and Boston University.
The MVP 85th Gala, originally scheduled as a weekend-long convocation and dance party for 150 attendees at the Campus Center, had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. In its new incarnation, her former dance students have been gathering together in monthly Zoom meetings since September, culminating with the Dec. 12 Gala, when four decades of alumni feted her with words and songs, joined her in informal breakout groups, and presented other kinds of merriment including an online dance party. Alumnus Rick Guimond '75, who helped to organize the event, commented, "It is the least we could do to honor this great lady. Marilyn Patton taught her students through her unflagging passion, deep-seated intelligence, thoughtfulness and motherly care, how to succeed not just in the world of dance, but in life. Her ongoing devotion to her students has garnered her a cadre of beloved friends who are thrilled to honor her in December."
Not a surprise to those who know her, Marilyn's dedication to dance is still unwavering. In lieu of gifts, she has asked that donations be made to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of Music and Dance, and suggests supporting any of these three dance funds: The Marilyn V. Patton University Dancers Endowment (established to provide support for University Dancers state-wide performances and teaching tours); the Richard Jones Scholarship Fund (offering scholarships to UMass dance majors); and the Any Body Can Dance Endowment (providing dance classes to non-majors, University-wide).
To make a donation, click on the University of Massachusetts Minute Fund link: https://minutefund.umass.edu/mvp85 or send a check (made out to UMass Amherst with the fund name on the memo line) to UMass Amherst, Development Office, Memorial Hall, 134 Hicks Way, Amherst, MA 01003. For more information, please contact Lucia Miller, Director of Development at the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.
And, as Marilyn says, "Remember to DANCE, DANCE, DANCE your whole life through!