Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, has announced a $31.6 million gift from alumnus John Atwater ('83) and his wife, Diana Nelson, to establish a central convening space in a planned performing arts center on campus and provide support for scholarships and other critical university priorities.
The gift includes $20 million to create the Diana Nelson and John Atwater Lobby in the center, a space that will serve as a hub for music, dance, theater, and multimedia arts scholarship. Enclosed almost entirely in glass, the lobby will face the campus, providing expansive views of The Walk, a series of linked green spaces at the heart of the campus. The remaining $11.6 million will support the Brown Annual Fund and the Brown Promise, an initiative to replace loans with scholarship funds in all financial-aid packages offered by the university.
The founder and CEO of Prime Group, a real estate equity and investment firm, Atwater has been a Brown Corporation trustee since 2015, serves on the BrownTogether campaign cabinet, and previously served on the President's Leadership Council. A San Francisco resident, Atwater also is a trustee of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, former chair of the California Academy of Sciences, and an advisory board member for the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. Nelson, a 1984 graduate of Harvard College, is board president of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, a director at Common Sense Media, and a past director of the World Childhood Foundation and has served in a number of leadership roles at Harvard, including vice chair of the Harvard University Board of Overseers.
"The PAC will serve as a nexus for students and faculty to work side by side as they practice, experiment, study, and perform," said the university's president, Christina Paxson. "The Diana Nelson and John Atwater Lobby will inspire a spirit of freedom to collaborate and experiment that yields path-breaking work. It will serve as a central convening space for intellectual and artistic collisions that are both planned and spontaneous."