ChangeMakers: Dorothy Gunther Pugh

Dorothy Gunther Pugh is the CEO and Founding Artistic Director of Ballet Memphis, which she founded in 1986 with two dancers and a budget of $75,000. Today, the Company has 25 dancers, a budget of more than $4.4 million, and is opening a new multi-million dollar administrative and studio space in the heart of Memphis’ arts and theatre district in August of this year. Under Dorothy’s direction, Ballet Memphis has been lauded by the Ford Foundation, the Hearst Foundations, and the Mellon Foundation, among others. Dorothy has appeared on several national dance panels, including PBS NewsHour, the National Endowment for the Arts Dance Panel and the Glass Slipper Ceiling Symposium. A member of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, she has received the Women of Achievement Award for Initiative and the Gordon Holl Outstanding Arts Administrator’s Award, and is a recipient of a fellowship from the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. She is a fellow in the National Arts Strategies’ Chief Executive Program™ and was named a 2012 Legends Award winner from the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis. In 2013, she received the Briggs’ Foundation Community Service Award. She has chaired the Artistic Directors’ Council for Dance/USA, the nation’s largest dance service organization for professional dance companies, and also serves on its panel for diversity and inclusion. Dorothy is a native Memphian who began her ballet training with Edith Royal of Orlando, Florida and later studied with Louise Rooke and Memphis Ballet. After graduating cum laude from Vanderbilt University, she studied with Raymond Clay and Donna Carver, and performed with Dance Concert Theatre. She completed teacher-training courses at the Royal Academy of Dance in London and with New York ballet master David Howard. Dorothy appeared in many roles with Ballet Memphis before leaving the stage.

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