Community patron Leslie Durst was honored at the Nov. 10 school board meeting for her generous donation to purchase new seating for the Royal Durst Theatre at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics. Durst is a longtime supporter and benefactor of VPS students and programs and, in particular, the arts. The theatre is named in honor of her father.

Said Todd Horenstein, assistant superintendent of facility support services, “As you know, this is not the first time that Leslie has generously provided support for a VSAA building project. She provided a significant donation, as the catalyst, for the initial renovation of the theatre in 1995. For 20 years, the Royal Durst Theatre has been a treasure for our students and community.

“Today’s gift for new theatre seats for the VSAA auditorium demonstrates her continued legacy as a champion for kids,” said Horenstein.

Board Director Kathy Gillespie read a statement from VSAA Principal Jim O’Banion, who was unable to attend the board meeting. “Leslie passionately focuses on the hearts of children and the needs they have to positively experience life. Her love and support of children are represented every day at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics through the quality facility she helped construct, to the guest artists that work side by side with students and teachers. When she moved to Vancouver, she could’ve chosen any pathway, but her path led to VSAA and we are profoundly grateful.”

“Being involved with VSAA has been bliss for me,” said Durst. “It was luck and some very good friends that steered me in this direction when VSAA was starting to be founded. It was this school board who back then had the foresight to think that a magnet school like this would work. I salute the fact that we have always had a very forward-thinking board that really tries to do the best for all of the kids in our community. Thank you for that.”

Durst’s father placed a high value on making a difference in one’s community. He inspired his daughter, and shared with her a love of the arts. Durst, in turn, has provided extraordinary gifts to her community. In her father’s name, Durst established a $1 million endowment for arts education. And she provided funds necessary to renovate this school’s historic theatre, also a tribute to her father. In addition, she has sponsored the I Have a Dream program at two elementary schools.