Gunnery announces multi-million dollar gift
The Gunnery in Washington has announced that the Thomas S. Perakos Family Cares Foundation unanimously approved and has committed to a multi-million-dollar leadership gift to the school.
The grant has been specifically designated to name the new building the Thomas S. Perakos Arts and Community Center, in honor of alumnus Thomas S. Perakos, class of 1969.
Perakos, whose acting and singing experiences began with the Connecticut Repertory Theater, which predate his years at The Gunnery, has been a lover of the arts since early childhood.
His passion to build the new facility for students as a community center focusing on the arts began decades ago, an objective he eventually shared with others when he returned to campus for his 40th class reunion in 2009.
When Perakos learned of the school’s new Campus Master Plan, he knew he had found the perfect opportunity to assist the school and the project through which to do it.
“I was drawn to The Gunnery’s vision as articulated by Peter Becker, head of school, and am so excited about the school’s future,” Perakos said. “I am thrilled to participate in bringing this key building to fruition and its opening night.
“In my opinion, this is a definite game changer for Gunnery students and for the generations to follow,” he said. “It will provide this wonderful school with the facilities to deliver a distinguished, diversified and unique curriculum.
“The performing arts program at The Gunnery is currently thriving, and soon it will have a venue to match its caliber and advance it to its greatest potential,” Perakos said.
“This is truly a dream come true. In addition, I could not be more honored to follow in the footsteps of my school chums, Jon and Steve Tisch, and the incredible generosity that the Tisch family has bestowed on the school for decades,” he said.
“Tom’s generous support for our Strategic Plan and Campus Master Plan is perfectly timed,” Becker said. “We are so very grateful for his affirmation of our vision and his personal involvement and expertise in the development of this project.”
As conceptualized and designed, the new 29,000-square-foot center will include a professional-grade theater with seating for the entire school community and guests (415 seats); classroom and studio spaces for graphic and digital arts, drawing, painting, ceramics and photography; instrumental and choral rehearsal spaces; gallery spaces; smaller performance, reception and meeting spaces; and an outdoor sculpture garden, patio and plaza.
Located near the main entrance to campus, the center will be constructed opposite the school’s dining hall and student center and will create a new, central green space between the two community-oriented facilities.
Perakos has been involved in theater and arts, growing up in a family that owned and operated movie theaters throughout New England.
His wide-ranging experience and notable career in film, theater and theatrical research, spanning decades, began with the marketing, advertising and promotion of films globally with Theatrical Entertainment Services, a company he started in the back of his car in Los Angeles in 1986.
TES was sold in 2001 to Taylor, Nelson & Sofres, the international market research giant, where he served for several years as chairman of the Entertainment Research Services Division and subsequently became a theatrical producer in London.
Perakos’ first theatrical production involvement was with Elton John’s internationally acclaimed musical hit, “Billie Elliot,” and as co-producer of the most recent revival of “A Moon for the Misbegotten,” starring Kevin Spacey, which opened in London’s West End before its successful run on Broadway.
Since then, Perakos has been involved in over 40 theatrical productions, including Tony and Olivier Award winner for Best Play, “War Horse.”
More recently, “Something Rotten” and “On Your Feet,” the Gloria Estefan musical; and the critically acclaimed revival of “Dream Girls,” now running in London.
What’s next? “The Band’s Visit,” which opens Nov. 9 on Broadway.
Through the Perakos Family Cares Foundation, Perakos co-produces two fundraising events annually benefiting philanthropic organizations that support the performing arts, educational youth programs and the care of the elderly.
Last year he brought Tony Award-winning Kelli O’Hara to Sun Valley, Idaho, to perform “A Salute to Broadway Under the Stars” to benefit Sun Valley Opera’s educational outreach and scholarship programs.
When asked about his years at The Gunnery, Perakos said his experiences at the school planted the seeds for his entrepreneurial career.
Among his Gunnery activities were: Glee Club president, Vesper Choir, varsity wrestling and varsity tennis, the Southbury Service Project and a co-starring role in the musical “Brigadoon.”
As a sophomore, he won the Edward Fuller Barnes Memorial Award; and, in 1969 he was awarded the English Speaking Union’s International School Boy Fellowship. He graduated from Trinity College in Hartford in 1973.
Perakos said he owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to teachers Wally Rowe and Norman Lemcke, who provided him with the skills, insight and support as coaches, during and beyond his Gunnery experience. “They were beyond terrific.”
The Perakos gift follows on the heels of a $10 million gift to the school from alumni Jonathan and Steven Tisch, a portion of which is designated to the new arts and community center, as well as to the school’s endowment.