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John Yeck gives $1 million to Miami

09/24/1999

A $1 million gift from the estate of John D. Yeck, a prominent Dayton businessman, will create a fund to benefit Miami University's theatre department.

The John Yeck Family Enrichment Fund for Theatre will be used to create an endowment that funds eight scholarships and provides financial support for activities, ranging from productions and internships to faculty development and student research.

The goal is to help encourage opportunities for creative experiences while enhancing the university's reputation in academic theatre.

Yeck, a 1934 graduate of Miami, died Feb. 23 at age 86. He founded a direct-mail company in 1938 that survives today under the corporate name of Yeck Brothers Co. Inc. The Dayton-based firm produced direct-marketing programs for British Airways, American Express, 3M, Chase Manhattan Bank, Federal Express and other well-known corporations.

Yeck maintained close ties to Miami, donating his time and advertising talent to university fund-raising efforts for more than 50 years.

A sociology major, Yeck was active in Miami theatre productions; his favorite professor was Homer Abegglen, who directed plays at the university for four decades.

"He acted, he pounded nails and he carried scenery, and he also later put on plays himself at the YMCA in Dayton," said daughter Joanne Yeck, a 1976 Miami graduate.

Her mother, Willa, who died in 1993, also had aspirations to study theatre, said Yeck, a writer who herself is married to an actor.

"A gift to the fine arts seemed a very appropriate gift for the entire family," she said.

Paul Jackson, chair of Miami's theatre department, said the gift "positions us in the way theatre and the arts should be positioned. It will have a major impact in terms of recruiting students, in terms of putting on productions and in terms of faculty and student development."

Pamela Fox, dean of the School of Fine Arts, said the gift will transform the department.

The Yeck family gift will be used to:

* Produce the annual John D. Yeck Mainstage Production.

* Fund eight four-year renewable Willa S. Yeck Scholarships to talented theatre majors. The first two scholarships will be offered to first-year students in fall 2000.

* Provide the Joanne L. Yeck Program for Theatre Enrichment to theatre students and faculty for such activities as speakers, off-campus internships or national conferences.

* Provide general support for departmental priorities such as faculty development, technology and student research.

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