Donna Kidd, MPA ’94, and Peter Stearns have a long and close relationship with George Mason. It is that legacy that made the April 11 dedication of the Donna L. Kidd and Peter N. Stearns Dance Studio at the deLaski Performing Arts Building a sweeter, more humbling event.
“Peter and I truly appreciate this honor and we’ll probably be walking through the halls periodically just making sure it’s still here,” Kidd said with a smile. “Obviously the real reward for our ongoing interest in Mason dance has been, and will continue to be, the program itself. It’s been immensely gratifying to see the continued progress of this special program, and its growing and well-deserved national recognition.”
Kidd worked for Mason from 1986 through 2010, retiring from a 24-year career that culminated as associate vice president for budget and planning. Stearns, her husband, continues to teach classes today after a long tenure as provost.
“The heights which the School of Dance is now reaching every year—higher and higher—that trajectory was set when Peter and Donna were in their roles as provost and … as a very, very high level financial person,” College of Visual and Performing Arts Dean Rick Davis said humorously, never remembering Kidd’s exact title. “The care with which they shaped the policies of the institution and then the support that flowed to those policies is the foundation on which we stand and climb higher.”
The celebration was also attended by Jovick J. Pavajeau, a dance student in his sophomore year and recipient of the Kidd-Stearns Talent Scholarship.
“The first time I was actually [at Mason] was to audition for the School of Dance. I was finishing up my senior year of high school in Bogota, Colombia, where I had been living for the past seven years,” said Pavajeau.
The young dancer told the story of his audition. Walking out feeling defeated, Pavajeau called his father to tell him he had done the best he could, but he was not ready for this caliber of work. A few weeks later he heard back from Mason. He was in.
“A few days after that, I get a call from my father. Just a normal day, he calls me in tears, completely emotional, barely able to speak. He said ‘Son, we did it. You were chosen for the Kidd-Stearns Dance Scholarship.’ The feeling was surreal,” Pavajeau said. “And none of this would be possible without the help of these two wonderful human beings that are here right now. That not only changed my entire world, and my family’s world, but our entire lives. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I would not be here, in front of you all, if it wasn’t for them.”
Kidd and Stearns continue to be involved with Mason, working across boards and committees and attending as many performances as the couple can.
“We spent a lot of time as employees, with many others, trying to help Mason get better. I think it measurably is getting better. And it’s a pleasure to continue to try and help financially, through volunteering and simply through appreciating,” said Stearns.
Now, students will be able to practice every day, through every success, failure, rise and fall, in a studio that bears the name of the people who support their ongoing work.
“It will be a pleasure to dance in the Kidd-Stearns Dance Studio each day,” said Pavajeau.
April 17, 2018 / Christopher Bobo