Multiplying opportunities

Retired mathematics professor John Poole began his career at Furman University in 1969, the same year that what was then known as the Furman Drama Department moved into The Playhouse.

From the beginning, Poole said his mission was to help undergraduate students “see the beauty of mathematics.” His other passion at Furman, a love of theatre, especially what became the Furman Theatre Arts department in 1996, has also remained constant.

Together, Poole and his wife, Joan, have attended approximately 100 Furman productions over their more than two decades of marriage. So their decision to support Furman’s Theatre Arts Department with an initial gift of $48,000 was an easy one.

“We’re fans of the performing arts,” said Poole, who taught in the Mathematics Department for 43 years. “My plays are what I look forward to every year.”

Beginning with the 2015–2016 year, the John Terry Poole and Sarah Joan Moyer-Poole Endowed Fund will provide assistance to any theatre majors in need of financial support.

“It’s flattering, humbling and terrific,” Theatre Arts Department Chair Jay Oney said of the gift.

For some students, the fund may assist with textbook purchases or compensate for other financial shortfalls or emergencies. It may help with their participation in study away programs, such as the department’s semester-long program in the United Kingdom, which includes classes with members of the Royal Shakespeare Company and shows on London’s West End. The funds may also provide some facility upgrades for the department, such as new headsets and ticketing software, Oney said.

The Theatre Arts Department is also one of the recipients of funds from a three-year Duke Endowment grant, a new initiative to enhance and expand the university’s programs in music, art and theatre. The department has been able to fund trips for more than 20 students to theatre conferences and bring nearly a dozen guest artists to campus for acting workshops, the world premiere of a play, and instruction in mask making, stage combat, sound, lighting and costume design.