posted on May 25: $500,000 gift supports the arts at McMaster


[img_inline align=”right” src=”” caption=”Wally Pieczonka”]A strong belief that human beings need the arts to balance their lives convinced a Burlington couple to support McMaster University's School of the Arts with a major endowment for art, drama and music.

The $500,000 gift from Wally and Mavis Pieczonka will create an endowment for the visual and performing arts.

“There is a growing emphasis on philanthropic support for medicine, science and engineering,” said Wally Pieczonka. “As a scientist myself, I know that advancements in those areas are important. But the arts also make an enormous contribution to our quality of life. We need to feed the human spirit if we are to create healthy societies and healthy nations. We are pleased to be able to help McMaster students develop new artistic interpretations of life.”

The Pieczonkas and their four children were the guests of honour at a ceremony and lunch held today on campus to mark their generous gift.

“Why to humanities?” said Wally, who graduated in 1960 from McMaster with a PhD in solid state physics. “The simple reason is we both enjoy the arts; they are a source of pleasure and entertainment. As well, man has two sides, there is a duality.

“There's the physical side, the brawn that is analagous to the world of science, technology, commerce and economics. The other side is a little more abstract, more the mind, the spirit, the soul. For a healthy body you have to have a blend of the two.”

Pieczonka told the gathering that in recent years the balance between the arts and the sciences has been unequal.

“I think what we have is an imbalance and we're just not putting enough money into the arts or the humanities.”

Pieczonka said the endowment is meant to support the “grass roots, the student level” because a university “is a collection of students. It's the students who ultimately make the place tick.”

The endowment will help McMaster's School of the Arts fund special events and needs, which could include art exhibits, professional drama and music performances, studio equipment, musical instruments, sets and costumes.

“The Pieczonkas' generosity creates new opportunities for our students to develop and showcase their talents,” said Daniel Woolf, dean of the Faculty of Humanities. “The flexibility in the endowment is an enormous advantage. It means each area within the School of the Arts will have the chance to benefit from the new funds. The gift also sends a clear signal about the importance of supporting the humanities and the arts.”

Both Wally and Mavis Pieczonka are McMaster graduates. Since her acting days at McMaster and with the Burlington Little Theatre, Mavis has been interested in the arts. She has been a volunteer with several arts organizations and has taken an interest in painting and sculptor. Wally chairs the Bay Area Arts and Heritage Stabilization Program.