A Morgantown native, Mr. Tanner was deeply connected to the local arts through his mother, Mabel DeVries Tanner. His mother was born in New York City and came to Morgantown with her husband Louis immediately after their marriage in 1924. Mrs. Tanner was active in the creative arts and founded a community theater group, the Morgantown Players. She was a critic of the arts for the local newspapers for 40 years. She died in 1974.
“Stephen’s mother was an influential member of the arts community in Morgantown for a long time,” said Rita Tanner. “Her love for all things art was amazing, we shared a belief that art enlightens the soul.”
The Tanner’s gifts to the university include the Mabel DeVries Tanner Drama Scholarship and the Mabel DeVries Tanner Professorship in Theatre, the only endowed professorship in the College of Creative Arts. The couple also funded the Stephen D. Tanner Music Therapy Scholarship and the Stephen D. Tanner Art Therapy Scholarship.
Before his passing in 2012, Stephen Tanner gave his time to the college as a longtime member of the visiting committee. The couple also supports the College of Business and Economics, School of Medicine, Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center and WVU Hospitals. Both are Old Gold members of the WVU Alumni Association and Loyalty Permanent Endowment Fund participants.
“The support from Steve and Rita Tanner has touched all three schools of the College of Creative Arts – including the School of Music, School of Art and Design and the School of Theatre and Dance,” said Keith Jackson, dean of the WVU College of Creative Arts. “Their support has literally been the backbone of the theatre department since their first gift in 1976. By supporting both faculty and students in Creative Arts, Rita and Steve have made success a reality for thousands of our students.”