The late John A. Degen met few of the theater students who use his books, manuscripts and artifacts, and he won’t meet the students who hold the award that bears his name. Nevertheless, Degen, a former professor of theater studies at FSU, has provided valuable resources that will shape the lives of students in The Florida State University School of Theatre for generations to come.
With this in mind, The Florida State University Foundation hosted the fourth annual James D. Westcott Legacy Society event at the Alumni Center Grand Ballroom in order to pay tribute to Professor Degen and provide honorees with several interactive opportunities to see how their generous gifts will change lives.
The event, held Thursday, Feb. 25, highlighted the School of Theatre and how Degen’s endowment has positively impacted the school’s students and faculty.
Thomas said that this award has allowed him to pursue his passion for teaching and researching theater.
“The assistantship has been my gateway,” Thomas said. “It’s the only way I am able to teach and continue to ask questions, and research and education is about asking more questions.”
Thomas added that the Degen Resource Room, a collection of Degen’s personal artifacts and his complete library, has been invaluable in finding texts and monologues unavailable except overseas.
“It’s rather extraordinary. The Degen has stuff that’s not at the library or anywhere else—theater books, Playbills from performances Degen saw on Broadway, and a large collection of music,” Thomas said. “There are always students working in there. It feels like home.”
After the luncheon, honorees were able to tour the Fine Arts Building for a special performance of songs from the musical RENT. Guests also enjoyed a backstage tour of the RENT set and a guided tour through the Degen Resource Room. FSU President Eric Barron and First Lady Molly Barron also opened the President’s House for tours, and guests were entertained by the Zach Bartholomew Trio, a jazz ensemble comprised of one current College of Music student and two alumni.
Nearly 120 guests attended the event, which allowed the FSU Foundation an opportunity to show honorees how their private support, like Degen’s, will inspire generations to come.
“I want to give back like that. Part of teaching and growing older is giving away what we have acquired, whether knowledge or things,” Thomas said. “Ultimately, I think the goal is to be able to share it.”