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Written by founding FWDC member, Liz Monnier

I am so saddened by the loss of Ian Rolland, but it intensifies my gratitude for a man who did so much for our community. The Fort Wayne Dance Collective incorporated in 1979 and took up residence on the 2nd floor of 1126 Broadway. It wasn’t cheap. Utilities in our first home,  a non- insulated space, was expensive and especially in the winter. It was so cold that we had a kerosene heater with a ceiling fan to try to spread some heat. Although we watched our expenses relentlessly, within two years we were struggling financially. No one was getting paid; we had no telephone or copy machine or anything!

It was clear we were not going to make it if something didn’t change. So, Lisa Tsetse and I made an appointment with Ian Rolland. The fact that he was even willing to meet with us seemed like a miracle.  We were both scared to death. I remember entering his beautiful and spacious office with my heart in my hand. We shared with him our mission and our struggles to keep things going. He listened. He didn’t say much. He said, “get a strong board, keep going and I will support you with $5,000.” He also said that our organization must be accountable to the community, a lesson that served us well. There were no conditions, no final grant report, just a gift.

In these times, it may not sound like much but it was the world to us. It made the difference between cutting our losses and going home or to continue this idea of the Fort Wayne Dance Collective.  If Ian Rolland supported us maybe others would too!

He didn’t just give us money he gave us confidence. In the years that followed we wondered, if he remembered that meeting, our need for financial support, and how we continued our mission because he continued to support us.

In 1989, Lincoln Financial Foundation began funding a yearly guest artist series that continues to this day. Fort Wayne audiences have seen Pilobolus, Trisha Brown, Joe Goode Performance Group, Urban Bush Women and more.

Ian and Mimi were always looking for ways to help people with disabilities. When they learned that the Hall Community Arts Center did not have an elevator to the second floor they moved mountains to make it a reality.

In 2011, Ian Rolland generously granted FWDC funds to partner with South Side High School for the Dance in Education program. This program provides financially disadvantaged students with an opportunity to grow their creativity and served as secondary family. Ian and Mimi attended the dynamic performances put on by the students who benefited from their monetary contribution. In so many ways, it changed the students’ lives for the better.

Would the Fort Wayne Dance Collective still be here without the Rollands? Maybe it would, but, also maybe not. Had it not been for that initial $5,000 to secure our future we may have left our dream on the street.  Thank you Ian and Mimi Rolland. You have left us with a powerful example to follow.