Muhlenberg Receives $4M Gift to Establish Endowed Professorships in Theatre and Dance

The gift from James R. Lentz ’66 P’20 and his wife, Debra A. Lentz P’20, dedicated supporters of the performing arts at Muhlenberg, will sustain faculty in two of the College’s signature programs in perpetuity.

The inaugural Lentz Endowed Professor in Theatre Jim Peck and the inaugural Lentz Endowed Professor in Dance Karen Dearborn. Photos by Paul Pearson and Tom Amico

The generous contribution from the Lentzes will allow Muhlenberg to establish The James R. ’66 P’20 and Debra A. P’20 Lentz Professorship in Theatre and the James R. ’66 P’20 and Debra A. P’20 Lentz Professorship in Dance. Endowed professorships are one of the seven key priorities of Boundless: The Campaign for Muhlenberg, which began its public phase in November 2021.

“Theatre and dance are a critical part of the vibrant arts culture on campus,” says Muhlenberg President Kathleen Harring. “These programs are primary examples of how students put theory into practice in a direct and tangible way, allowing them to transfer skills to their postgraduate endeavors. Jim and Deb really have changed the game for a lot of students, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Jim, president and owner at Thermal Technologies, Inc., and Deb, secretary/corporate administrator at Thermal Technologies, Inc., are longtime supporters of the performing arts, in general and at Muhlenberg. In 2012, the Lentzes, who reside in South Carolina, established The James R. Lentz ’66 and Debra A. Lentz Scholarship in Theatre and Dance. They attended Summer Music Theatre productions throughout the series’ nearly 40-year run.

“Just because of the fact that we enjoy the arts, we thought this was a way to give back,” says Jim. “Of course, Muhlenberg has a great reputation [for theatre and dance]. Both of them support one another.”

The inaugural Lentz Endowed Professor in Theatre will be Jim Peck. Peck, who joined Muhlenberg in 1999, currently serves as chair and professor of theatre. He teaches courses in directing, performance studies and theatre history. He is a past recipient of the Class of ’32 Research Professorship, the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, the Williams Award for Research by a Junior Faculty Member and the First-Year Advising Award.

The inaugural Lentz Endowed Professor in Dance will be Karen Dearborn. Dearborn joined Muhlenberg in 1993 to become the founding director of the Dance Program (she’s now chair and professor of dance). She teaches courses that blend the theory and practice of dance, including dance composition, dance history, ballet technique and advanced research in dance. She was named the Spira Honoree for Distinguished Teaching in 2010 and earned the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2003.


To help students become boundless, we must be boundlessly generous.