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Making the "Good, Great" for Marco Institute and Theatre

Dr. Stuart Riggsby

Dr. Stuart Riggsby

By Chandra Harris-McCray

Magan Wiles knows her stage would not be as grand without Dr. Stuart Riggsby.

The generous gifts of Stuart, the former dean of the UT College of Arts and Sciences, affords Magan the rare opportunity to hone her craft and work alongside stellar faculty and seasoned performers in the national-caliber Clarence Brown Theatre.

Fulfilling Dreams
The St. Louis, Mo., actress wanted to not only act, but teach from the stage. And UT's master's acting program is fulfilling her dreams. As one of just 17 universities with its own professional theater associated with the League of Resident Theatres, "moments are created at UT that actors across the globe covet and clamor over."

Renaissance aficionados feel the same way about UT's Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. The institute is another distinguished program that would not be what it is today without Stuart's foresight and generosity. He created endowments to support a directorship, lecture series and graduate Latin instruction-an indispensable tool of the professional medievalist's trade.

"Stuart took one of the Latin classes and loved it," says Heather Hirschfeld, who serves as the Riggsby Director of the Marco Institute. "And his love continues to endure.

"Marco has a rich foundation of supporting humanities education and research across eight departments and two colleges at UT," she says. "We touch many parts of the university."

Stuart's efforts ensure that Marco can continue to build upon its national recognition of being the center for excellence for medieval and renaissance studies in the Southeast.

"Not everyone can do what the Marco Institute and the theater programs are doing," Stuart Says. "These programs set UT apart from the rest and are truly unique."

"Appreciation for the Humanistic Side of Learning"
Since he was a young boy, Stuart stood out in the crowd for being immersed in both science and the arts.

"He is such a rarity for a scientist. He shows a delightful appreciation for the humanistic side of learning," said Michael Kulikowski, former director of the Marco Institute, who is now a professor and department head of history at Penn State.

In elementary school, Stuart fell in love with music like The Nutcracker Suite, "and I was good at science," Stuart says. By high school, he was studying Latin. He even considered majoring in classics when he went off to George Washington University, but he decided to study something that "would earn me a good living-engineering."

He eventually turned back to the sciences and graduated with a physics degree.

He earned his Ph.D. in molecular biology and biophysics from Yale University in 1964. After stints at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Stuart joined UT in 1969 as an assistant professor of microbiology. Before being appointed the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, he served as associate dean of the college, and prior to that he was the associate head of the college's department of microbiology.

No matter what he has done in his career, Stuart says: "I still have memories of cultural events and performances from more than 50 years ago that have stuck with me. I remember going to see my first play-Inherit the Wind-on Broadway and what that was like."

Kulikowski said Stuart, "has a deep intellectual and aesthetic commitment to understanding the world of the past."

"To His Bones He Is an Educator"
Intrigued and inspired by seeing the beauty and exploring the history of Italy and Spain with his wife, Kate, and their son, Andrew, who is a professor of classics at the University Texas at Austin, Stuart says he simply cannot get enough. On his nightstand is a book about Spanish medieval history, "and I do not want to put it down."

"To his bones he is an educator. He gets it and he understands why it matters," says Jed Diamond, UT associate professor and head of acting in the department of theater.

"Most of what I have comes from my days of working at UT," Stuart says. "And now it's time to give back and help make the good great."

How to Leave Your Mark at UT
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