An anonymous donor’s $3 million gift to Carolina Performing Arts will create the first nonfaculty endowed directorship in the arts at Carolina, named for former Chancellor James Moeser and University organist and music department instructor Susan Moeser.
The gift is the largest one-time contribution from an individual or family in CPA history.
The James and Susan Moeser Endowed Fund for the Executive and Artistic Director at Carolina Performing Arts will support that position in creating opportunities for the Carolina community and beyond to discover the world through the arts. The gift comes after a year of pandemic-related challenges for arts organizations everywhere, as theaters and venues darkened to audiences.
Former Chancellor Moeser, who became interim executive and artistic director at CPA in 2019 after the departure of founder Emil Kang, will retire June 30. Alison Friedman, artistic director for performing arts for the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority in Hong Kong, will assume the role in October as patrons return for CPA’s 17th season and its first in-person experiences since March 2020.
“Chancellor Moeser’s investment in the arts heralded a new era at Carolina that continues to this day. Chapel Hill is a destination for world-class performers, where visiting artists integrate into the classroom and new opportunities for interdisciplinary discoveries abound,” said Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “This gift is a testament to the essential role that the arts play at the nation’s first public university, and we are grateful for Chancellor Moeser’s commitment to this endeavor.”
CPA got its start in 2005 during Moeser’s tenure as chancellor, part of an arts growth spurt on campus that also included an $18 million renovation of Memorial Hall. Since its founding, CPA has presented hundreds of performances by artists from around the world, commissioned more than 50 groundbreaking works and underwritten more than 111,000 student tickets. Last year, during closures due to COVID-19 risks, it launched CPA at Home as a hub for virtual performance and exclusive content from artists around the world.
“Susan and I are humbled that this gift has been made in our names, but more than that, we are elated at this demonstration of support for the invaluable work that Carolina Performing Arts does on a campus, regional, national and international scale,” Moeser said. “We’ve dedicated our lives to higher education and the arts, and to see how CPA continues to transform the role of an arts organization on the campus of a public university is nothing short of astonishing, and we’re proud to remain active members of its community of donors and advocates.”
Both classically trained organists, the Moesers champion the arts personally and professionally. Susan Moeser is a well-known recitalist and teacher who has performed throughout the U.S. and internationally. She was an officer at the local and national levels in the American Guild of Organists and taught organ, music history and music theory at the universities of Nebraska and South Carolina and at Penn State University.
Chancellor Emeritus Moeser’s career in the arts began as a faculty member at the University of Kansas. He earned a reputation as one of the nation’s leading organ recitalists, church musicians and teachers while performing across the U.S. and Europe, retiring from performance in 1992. He later was dean of the KU School of Fine Arts before becoming Carolina’s ninth chancellor (2000-08), taking a career path that included positions at Penn State and the universities of South Carolina and Nebraska. AS UNC’s chancellor, he established the Carolina Covenant, a program to provide debt-free education to students from low-income families. Moeser later was interim chancellor at the UNC School of the Arts and acting director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Carolina.