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Shaw Festival founder, arts philanthropist Calvin G. Rand dies

Calvin G. Rand escorted Queen Elizabeth II to a dinner and play in his role as founding director of the Shaw Festival in June 1973.

That summer, Rand and his wife Patricia hosted two prime ministers, Indira Gandhi and Pierre Trudeau, at their Niagara-on-the-Lake summer home.

And in the mid 1980s, Rand was so impressed by a dramatic reading delivered by three young actors from Dublin, Ireland who had moved to Buffalo that he wrote a sizable check the next day to support the “newest theater company in town” – which became the Irish Classical Theatre Company.

Longtime UB philosophy professor and art philanthropist Calvin Rand died in his sleep Saturday at 87.

Calvin Rand, a longtime University at Buffalo philosophy professor and major philanthropist whose fingerprints remain all over the Buffalo and Niagara-on-the-Lake cultural maps, died in his sleep Saturday in his Buffalo home. He was 87.

Despite his connections to world leaders and contributions to the arts community, his was not a household name in Buffalo.

That may be because the unpretentious benefactor didn’t seek the spotlight.

More than 50 years after Rand began investing heavily in the Niagara Frontier’s cultural jewels – with his checkbook, energy, entrepreneurial spirit and time – a long list of cultural gems owes a huge debt to him and his family. Those include Buffalo treasures such as the Irish Classical Theatre, Studio Arena Theater, Kleinhans Music Hall, Burchfield Penney Art Center and Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

“When something positive happens in the local arts community, there’s a good possibility that Calvin G. Rand had a hand in it,” Canisius College stated in awarding him an honorary doctorate in 2010. “He has devoted more than five decades to the enrichment of the cultural landscape on both side of the U.S.-Canada border.”

Even in his last days, Rand remained active on some of the several dozen cultural boards that he had served over the years. One of his greatest wishes was that younger generations would share his desire to give back.

“His life was committed to philanthropy,” said Jayne K. Rand, his niece and close friend. “His legacy would be to inspire others to do more than just write a check. He was concerned how we could instill those true values in younger people. How are the arts and culturals going to be sustained in the next generation?”

Rand learned those values from his own family.

Buffalo native

His grandfather, George F. Rand, founded the Marine Trust Co., which became Marine Midland Bank under the leadership of Calvin’s father, George F. Rand Jr. The younger George Rand also founded the Buffalo Foundation (now the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo).

Born in Buffalo on May 15, 1929, Calvin Rand graduated from Nichols School, earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and studied philosophy at Columbia University.

He never left academia, making a huge impact on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.

Besides his work as a UB philosophy professor, he also founded the Niagara Institute for International Studies in Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1971. The institute’s main goal was to improve understanding between Americans and Canadians. Its first three-day conference in 1971 featured former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and other luminaries who met in a home torched by American forces during the War of 1812. It’s now known as The Niagara Institute.

Rand also served as president of the American Academy in Rome, a residential community of American scholars and artists. During his four years as president, from 1979 to 1983, Rand was credited with strengthening the academy’s board and turning its operating deficit into a surplus.

“I see a period now for loosening up my life,” he told The Buffalo News in 1983. “It has been fairly busy.”
Rand also served as visiting professor at the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

The Shaw Festival

Queen Elizabeth II with Calvin Rand, president of the Shaw Festival Theatre, at performance of "You Never Can Tell" in June 1973. (Photo courtesy of the Shaw Festival)

But his key legacy remains the Shaw Festival.

In 1962, Rand and Ontario playwright Brian Doherty produced four performances each of two George Bernard Shaw plays.

“There had been some theater before then, but we weren’t interested in doing summer stock or regional theater fare,” Rand told the Buffalo Evening News in 1971. “We wanted to concentrate on a playwright or style or period of theater.

“George Bernard Shaw was a natural choice since he’s always been a popular playwright and wrote a great many plays,” he added. “Also, there are many English people in the area interested in that type of theater.”

From its humble origins, the Shaw Festival grew to the point that Queen Elizabeth officially opened the new theater on June 28, 1973, on her tour of Ontario.

Also creating a huge buzz that summer were the appearances of Gandhi and Trudeau.

“It was pretty extraordinary to see the helicopter coming down in the field next to their house, and then Indira Gandhi was escorted to their home,” recalled Lawrence F. Robb, who became Rand’s son-in-law.
Rand’s daughters rode on horseback from their family’s estate, Randwood, to the new theater to greet Pierre and Margaret Trudeau.

The Shaw Festival has survived and thrived for more than half a century, and its officials were effusive Thursday in their praise of Rand.

“We owe our very existence to Mr. Rand and his prescient colleagues,” Executive Director Tim Jennings stated. “The Shaw was established during the formative days of the non-profit theater movement, but it did not come easily. There were early detractors and many obstacles.”

“Mr. Rand was what all artists pray for – a truly dedicated friend, supporter and adviser – one who was in it for the long haul,” added Tim Carroll, Shaw’s new artistic director.

The Shaw will honor its co-founder by dedicating Carroll’s 2017 production of Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan” in his memory.

Community benefactor

Throughout his life, Rand either chaired capital campaigns, made major donations or served on the boards of dozens of not-for-profit organizations, most of them in the arts. Among his major awards were the honorary doctorate from Canisius College, the Red Jacket Award from the Buffalo History Museum and the Walter P. Cooke Award from UB.

Until his death, Calvin directed funding for the Rand Chair at UB, which funds a connection between Chinese business executives and the Buffalo business community. He also served as director of Rand Capital Corp., which was founded by his brother, George F. Rand III.

Calvin Rand was preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, the former Patricia Andrew, who died in 2001.

Surviving are five daughters, Robin Ellis, Melissa Robb, Jennifer Griffis, Lucinda and Elizabeth; 10 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in Westminster Presbyterian Church on Delaware Avenue.



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