Taking center stage

Philanthropist and Broadway producer G. Marlyne Sexton has made a $15 million gift to SMU Meadows School of the Arts to create a specialization in musical theatre that will prepare graduates for a lifetime of leading roles.

Artists on stage and performing

Sexton's gift provides endowments for both the new G. Marlyne Sexton Institute for Musical Theatre and the G. Marlyne Sexton Director of Musical Theatre – and operating funds to enable their work to begin during the 2023-2024 school year.

“Marlyne Sexton’s gift builds on the strong Meadows School of the Arts programs in theatre, music and dance,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “It also augments the arts scene in Dallas, inspiring artistic expression and adding to SMU Meadows’ status as a premier artistic and cultural institution.”

The Sexton Institute for Musical Theatre will provide an education in one of the most popular and distinctly American forms of performance art. Musical theatre students enrolled in the program will participate in cutting-edge productions and gain valuable training and expertise from internationally recognized faculty and performers.

“SMU Meadows produces some of the best professional artists in the world, and I am proud to support this addition to the school’s repertoire,” said Sexton. “As they entertain, I hope students of musical theatre will develop their abilities to inspire us and build our capacity to empathize for others.”

Marlyne Sexton’s gift augments the arts scene in Dallas, inspiring artistic expression and adding to SMU Meadows’ status as a premier artistic and cultural institution.

— R. Gerald Turner, SMU President

The Sexton Institute for Musical Theatre will offer one of the few comprehensive training programs for performers and technicians available in a vibrant United States city. Students will be able to obtain an BFA in theatre with a specialization in musical theatre, in addition to existing concentrations in acting and theatre studies. The support for the Sexton Director of Musical Theatre enables SMU to hire a dedicated leader who will shepherd the creation of the curriculum and all facets of the competitive musical theatre program.

“For many years, prospective students have told us they are looking for musical theatre training like this,” said Samuel S. Holland, Algur H. Meadows Dean of the Meadows School. “Marlyne Sexton’s gift will help SMU attract artistic and talented performers, and help us achieve our goal of becoming nationally competitive in this discipline within five years of launching the program.”

Sexton is a dedicated supporter and parent of two SMU alumnae, Nicole Sexton ’87 and Tracy Copeland ’82. She has also been involved in producing and funding Broadway productions in New York and London.

Expected impact

  • Prepares students for a lifetime of creative roles and artistic leadership.
  • Attracts artistic and talented student performers to the thriving arts culture in North Texas.
  • Expands Meadows School of the Arts areas of study to include musical theatre programs and training.

With this gift, Sexton significantly expands her support for SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow, the University’s multiyear $1.5 billion campaign for impact – and particularly for the campaign goal to enrich teaching and research. Previously, as part of the enhanced SMU Meadows facilities for the visual arts, Sexton and her family made a gift to establish the Sexton Family Courtyard, the renovated west entrance to the arts building; the Sexton Family Art Studio and Terrace, an expansive indoor-outdoor space; and the Sexton Family Suite for Creative Computation as part of school’s enhanced facilities for the visual arts.

“We are incredibly grateful for donors around the world like Marlyne Sexton who are committed to enriching the lives of students and strengthening the communities where they eventually live and work,” said Brad E. Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs. “Generous donors like Marlyne are playing a key role in the incredible success of the SMU Ignited campaign.”

SMU Meadows produces some of the best professional artists in the world and I am proud to support the school.

— Marlyne Sexton, Philanthropist and Broadway producer

G. Marlyne Sexton

Marlyne SextonMarlyne Sexton is a philanthropist and civic volunteer based in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is the owner of the Sexton Companies, a nationwide builder and developer of apartment homes and communities based in Indianapolis, founded by her late husband, Joseph Sexton, in 1962. In 1994, she received the Sagamore of the Wabash Award from Governor Evan Bayh for distinguished service to the State of Indiana.

Sexton is active as a board member of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and a sponsor of the 500 Festival Princess Program Scholarship Fund. She is a Distinguished Advisor to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and a sponsor of its Hunt Slonem permanent exhibit. Other organizations benefiting from her generosity include The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation, IU Health North Hospital, Riley Children’s Hospital, Best Buddies International and the International SeaKeepers Society. She serves as a member of the National Council of the White House Historical Association with a mission to protect, preserve and provide public access to the rich history of America’s Executive Mansion. Sexton received the Indianapolis Opera’s Katherine Taurel Woman of the Arts Award and is involved in producing and funding Broadway productions in New York and London.

Sexton’s daughters, Nicole Sexton ’87 and Tracy Copeland ’82, graduated from SMU Meadows School of the Arts and currently serve on the Meadows Executive Board. All three women have joined in support of the Alzheimer’s Association, co-hosting various galas in the Hamptons and New York City.

SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow

SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas. SMU’s alumni, faculty and more than 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, communities and the world. Building on its history of excellence, SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow is the University’s multiyear $1.5 billion campaign to empower students, to enrich teaching and research and to enhance our campus and community.