Department of Musical Theatre receives major gifts from Broadway producer Jeffrey Seller and philanthropist James Kershner

University of Michigan alum and Tony-award winning producer Jeffrey Seller (BA ’86, LSA), and James Kershner, a Chicago-based arts philanthropist and real estate businessman, have each made major gifts in support of the Department of Musical Theatre at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Seller has established the Jeffrey Seller Scholarship Fund to support need-based scholarships for musical theatre students. The $660,000 gift was matched by the University’s ongoing Bicentennial Opportunity Matching Initiative, creating $990,000 in new endowment funding for the program.

Seller has become one of Broadway’s most successful producers, helming a roster of blockbuster hits including the Tony-award winners Rent (1996), Avenue Q (2003), In the Heights (2008) and, most recently, the record-breaking Hamilton (2015). His partnerships with producer Kevin McCollum and, later, the actor/writer/librettist Lin-Manuel Miranda have combined to create four of Broadway’s most successful musicals.

“As one of the most successful Broadway producers of our time, Jeffrey’s support of our musical theatre students means the world to us,” said SMTD Dean Aaron Dworkin. “Cost continues to be one of the greatest barriers to higher education, and we can be especially grateful for this gift, which lowers that hurdle for musical theatre students with the greatest need. With this new support, we are able to recruit the most talented students regardless of their economic circumstances.”

James Kershner, an ardent supporter of the musical theatre department, has announced his intention to provide a $1 million gift through his estate plans to benefit the department. The funds will be used at the discretion of the department to enhance the program’s offerings and student experience. Kershner, previously established a scholarship in the department, and has been a mainstay at musical theatre productions over much of the last decade.

“Jim’s gift will make possible a wide variety of programmatic and academic initiatives for our students in musical theatre,” Dworkin said. “Productions, classroom activities, and engaged learning opportunities will all benefit. We owe Jim our sincere thanks for this wonderful new gift, and for his long-standing support of the school and the department”

The Department of Musical Theatre, continuously ranked amongst the best in the nation, has developed some of the top talent in the industry over the last 30 years. Many alumni have continued on to leading roles from Broadway to the silver screen, and can currently be found in mainstage or touring productions of Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Hello Dolly!, Miss Saigon, and Kinky Boots, amongst others.

Both gifts support SMTD in the university-wide Victors for Michigan campaign. SMTD seeks to raise $90 million, which includes $45 million for scholarship support. For more information about the campaign, or to make a gift to the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, visit the SMTD website or call 734.647.2035.