A little more than 20 years ago, then Babson President William Glavin approached Richard Sorenson, MBA’68, P’97, ’00, and his wife, Sandy, about their interest in supporting various campus initiatives. Among the potential projects was an arts center, and for Sorenson, the decision was a no-brainer. “I had always loved the arts. When I heard that,” he recalls, “I just kind of lit up and said, ‘OK, that’s where we’d like to focus our efforts and support Babson.’”
In February, the Richard W. Sorenson Center for the Arts celebrated its 20th anniversary with a slate of performances that demonstrated the breadth and depth of Babson’s arts programming. The project that began as a suggestion has evolved into a vital campus resource, one that helps the College provide a well-rounded educational experience for students.
Although the Center has played an important role since its inception, by all accounts its programming took a significant leap forward when President Kerry Healey hired Steven Maler to direct the Sorenson Center in 2013. Maler, a well-known figure in Boston theater circles, brought with him the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, for which he serves as founding artistic director. CSC is now Babson’s theater company in residence, mounting several productions on campus each season as well as annual free Shakespeare performances on the Boston Common.
Maler is excited by the “pedagogical tie-ins” between the arts and the classroom that he has been able to find and create. He lauds the Sorensons’ “prescience” in helping bring the arts to campus some 20 years ago. “The requirements of creativity in the workforce now are so much more manifest and manifold than they were when the Sorensons gave this gift,” he says. “I think the Sorenson Center has become an urgent necessity in equipping our students to go out into the world.”
At the February showcase, the Babson community’s talents, from singing to dancing to performing improv and more, were very much in evidence among the 15 or so numbers. As a finale, CSC artist Anthony Rapp, who originated the role of Mark Cohen in Rent, joined students on stage to perform the anthemic “Seasons of Love.” Student artwork—paintings, drawings, ceramics—was on display in the lobby outside the theater, a reminder that the Sorenson Center supports visual as well as performing arts.
The Sorensons, who also fund scholarships for students involved in the arts, are frequently asked why a business school needs an arts program. In response, they tend to flip the question around. “Without the arts,” says Richard, “life would be pretty empty and stark. It’s such an integral part of human existence. Why shouldn’t every business school have an arts presence?”—Jane Dornbusch