Our annual Towsley Society celebration is by far the Michigan Theater Foundation’s most important fundraiser event of the year and in 2020, we celebrated virtually. If you were not able to join us, no fear! Please email Megan Anderson for more information.
Our 2020 event included an update from our CEO Russ Collins about the current state of the theaters (as of November 18, 2020) and an inspirational talk from Ari Weinzweig, founding partner of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, about community and the Michigan Theater Foundation.
What is the Towsley Society?
The Towsley Society is the Michigan Theater Foundation’s giving society. It was named to honor the memory of Margaret Dow Towsley, whose philanthropic vision and generosity were instrumental in saving the Michigan Theater in 1979. The Michigan Theater, designed by Maurice Finkel, opened on January 5, 1928 with a fully functioning stage, orchestra pit, and elaborate organ, as well as the capability to project film. It was managed by Butterfield Theaters for 50 years, went through a change in décor in 1956 and then was threatened with demolition in 1979.
The community rallied around Mrs. Towsley and our organists to preserve the theater. Then, in 2003, a full restoration of the theater was completed. With almost $9 million invested, the Michigan was returned to its original splendor. In 2014, the Michigan Theater Foundation purchased the aging State Theatre, designed by C. Howard Crane, and in 2016 the State Theatre closed for extensive renovations and reopened in December of 2017. Community donations of over $8.5 million renovated the State Theatre and provided needed updates to the Michigan.
To say thank you to a very special woman who inspired generations with her spirit of community philanthropy, you will see the words “Remember Margaret D. Towsley” etched over the doors to the Grand Foyer in the Michigan Theater. Together, the Michigan & State Theaters are proud to serve as the community gathering places of downtown Ann Arbor, bringing over 300,000 guests to movies, plays, concerts, talks, meetings, parties, weddings, and other events each year.
Who was Margaret D. Towsley?
Originally formed in the 1990s, the Towsley Society was named to honor the memory and recognize the community philanthropy of Margaret Dow Towsley and the Towsley Family, whose philanthropic vision and generosity were instrumental in saving the Michigan Theater in 1979.
Mrs. Towsley saw the need to maintain the connection with Ann Arbor’s past through a community arts center in the central city. As a result of her initial gift and the millions of dollars that have been raised in the community over the ensuing 40 years, the Michigan Theater is now the city’s primary downtown landmark, providing a daily, year-round program of movies, concerts, children’s theater and other cultural events.
As a lasting tribute to Mrs. Towsley’s work in the Ann Arbor area community, you will see the words “Remember Margaret D. Towsley” etched over the doors to the Grand Foyer. This is our way of saying thank you to a very special woman who inspired generations with her spirit of community philanthropy.
For pledges of $1,000 or more per year for 5 years
- Recognition on the Current Towsley Society Members plaque.
- Your choice of a complimentary Premium Membership for the length of your pledge or Gold Card Membership at half the standard price.
- Invitations to our exclusive Insiders Series events and to the Sundance Film Festival Afterglow Party.
- Access to our Towsley Society Ticket Service, which allows you to call the theater directly to purchase tickets to our live events and special engagements.
- Discounted membership in the Backstage Club, which provides a high touch luxury concert-going experience for devotees of American roots music.
For pledges of $2,000 or more per year for 5 years
In addition to all of the Towsley Society benefits, you will also receive:
- Complimentary Gold Card Membership for the length of your five-year pledge.
- Donors can purchase priority seating for most live events and special engagements at the Michigan Theater.
Gifts at these levels are major gifts. If you are considering a generous gift of this nature, please contact our Chief Development Officer, Lee Berry at (734) 668-8397 x22, for more information on how best to recognize your contribution.