Spring 2022

Understanding the World

Alumni couple’s support helps spread and advance the wisdom of the humanities.

Jacquelynn and Bennett Dorrance spent their years at the University of Arizona together, marrying in 1968 and graduating in 1969. But they met in high school in Switzerland. They were seated at a long library table, and Jacquie asked Bennett for a pencil, which he shot down the table toward her. She found her future husband a little rude, but kind of cute.

Photo by Ruben Aguirre, Dorrance Foundation for Education

Once they were in sunny Tucson, the young couple enjoyed outdoor pursuits, hunting or visiting Mount Lemmon on the weekends. They dined at the erstwhile Tack Room for fancy occasions or when their parents came to visit. They also visited France together as students, and were immersed in the language and culture. 

Now the Dorrances share a belief in the importance of international travel, and they’re helping students experience it as part of their Wildcat Journeys. The couple offers a study abroad experience to participants in the Dorrance Scholarship Programs, which have provided academic and financial support to first-generation students at Arizona’s three public universities since 1999.

“Travel abroad is a huge part of our thinking. It’s imperative,” Jacquie says. “When we first address the freshman class [of Dorrance Scholars] coming in, I always say, ‘We didn’t choose you to change you. But we’re offering an opportunity to open your minds and have a better understanding of the world around you.’” 

This focus on student travel is part of what keeps the Dorrances closely connected to the College of Humanities, which named them its Alumni of the Year in 2012. Last year, with a $5.4 million gift commitment, they established the Dorrance Endowed Deanship, expressing an intent to secure the college’s future. 

“We are endowing the deanship because of our deep appreciation of Alain-Philippe Durand and his leadership as dean,” they wrote in a statement.

Durand, the inaugural holder of the Dorrance Endowed Deanship, shares a vision for the college with the Dorrances. With the Dorrances’ support, the college is launching the Fearless Inquiries Project, a strategic set of initiatives designed to make the University of Arizona a leader for vibrant humanities programs. In addition to helping students access global education opportunities, it includes using humanities as a platform to further the ideals of democracy and free speech. 

Also, Durand and the Dorrances would like to make UArizona the go-to place, especially for other universities, to learn how to support innovative humanities programs, including approaches that combine classic humanities with modern technologies. With the Dorrances support, the College launched the “Humanities Innovators in a Tech World” lecture series, and the “Perspectives Series” in Washington, D.C., to discuss the questions “How Free is Speech on Campus and Does it Matter?”

“The humanities is a way to think through challenges and find new answers. It’s about learning from the past, but also from the future,” Durand says. “Our goals are to show the power of the humanities to start these kinds of conversations, to open people’s minds to different perspectives and concepts, and to create new insights and solutions. Jacquie and Bennett are visionary partners in this work.”