decided to return to college. She enrolled at USF, focusing on theater and writing some 80 pages of a play at the time of her death. McNeil was aware of her mother’s passion for drama, and decades later found a perfect way to celebrate it. While doing a Google search, she stumbled upon something she’d never known: Her parents had once made a gift to create a scholarship in Lily’s name to help USF theater students. The scholarship had long since ended, but the revelation prompted McNeil to contact the university. After discussions with Director of the School of Theater and Dance Marc Powers and the USF Foundation,
n THE LILY DISHMAN PLAYWRITING PROGRAM WAS ESTABLISHED WITH A GIFT FROM JANE MCNEIL, TO HONOR HER MOTHER.
LEAVENGOOD, LEFT, AND JANE MCNEIL ARE COLLABORATING ON A PLAY.
the Lily Award was created in 2012. “It’s a beautiful endowment that helps six of our graduates each year with $2,000 apiece in start-up funds for things like travel or auditions,” Powers says. McNeil subsequently met a USF student who was writing plays on his own. Impressed, she asked Powers: “What would it take to launch a playwriting program?” The key would be finding a strong instructor, he explained. By chance, during one of her rare trips to St. Petersburg after the loss of her parents, McNeil decided to visit a local bookstore that had been her mother’s favorite, Haslam’s. Stepping inside for the first time in 30 years, she asked where the drama section was, and randomly picked up a book of plays – by Bill Leavengood. McNeil had no idea he was teaching theater at the same preparatory school she had attended as a child. All she knew was that she loved the writing, and thought: “That’s who I want as my instructor!” Leavengood signed on, and the program blossomed. “It’s going great,” he says. “Jane has big plans for what she wants to do here.” There is one more twist to the script: McNeil and Leavengood are collaborating on a play – completing the one Lily Dishman was never able to finish. It is a fitting final act for a life cut short, and a life that has paved the way for many plays and dreams to come. – Stories by DAVE SCHEIBER | USF FOUNDATION
GIFT TO THE COLLEGE OF NURSING HELPS VETS WITH PTSD Jane McNeil hasn’t only touched the lives of young playwrights at USF. She recently lent a philanthropic hand to another cause close to her heart—the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder. As a result of her generosity, the USF Health College of Nursing reached across the Atlantic Ocean in October to help current and former members of the military suffering from PTSD. Her gift to the college from the Lily Foundation – honoring her late mother – paved the way for a highly successful Restore Lives conference that drew representatives from the medical and armed forces communities. McNeil’s late father dealt with stress issues stemming from his World War II service, and she endured intense emotional trauma after losing both her parents as a young teen. Her desire to help post-traumatic stress sufferers spurred her to support the College of Nursing’s work on that front. And it led to a special honor in January, when Dean Dianne Morrison-Beedy presented McNeil with the 2016 Nursing Champion Award and a memory scrapbook filled with photos of the event. “That gift made a huge difference – not only for the people who attended but the people impacted by those who attended,” the Dean told her. McNeil prefers to give credit to the College of Nursing. “It’s easy for me to do what I do on my end,” she says. “They do the real work: the work that changes lives of those suffering with post-traumatic stress as well as their families. For countless generations to come, the ripple effect of their healing is priceless.”
DR. CHARLES LOCKWOOD, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR USF HEALTH AND DEAN OF THE USF HEALTH MORSANI COLLEGE OF MEDICINE, JANE MCNEIL, AND DIANNE MORRISON-BEEDY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE VICE PRESIDENT FOR USF HEALTH AND DEAN OF THE COLLEGE OF NURSING.
$907,442,332 REASONS TO SAY “THANK YOU!” The USF: Unstoppable Campaign has raised more than $907 million from people like you. Together we are Unstoppable. Read more about the campaign at www.unstoppable.usf.edu.
SPRING 2016 23
The official magazine of the University of South Florida Alumni Association.