Supporting Wellness Through Arts Experiences

Professor Peter Williams. Images courtesy of the Heatons.

Dave and Lucy Heaton believe that arts experiences contribute to lifelong wellness, helping to expand personal growth outside of the classroom and to provide a space of relief from the pressures of student life.

Dave, who graduated from Duke in 1989, met his wife Lucy in Manhattan in 1992. He had no idea that she too had a tie to Duke: Her father, Peter Williams, was an eminent organ scholar and leading expert on Johann Sebastian Bach. He left England for Durham, North Carolina, when he was appointed a Duke University music professor and chair of the Duke Music Department in 1985-8. Williams was later director of the Graduate Center for Performance Practice Studies (1990-97), and he was also an organist for Duke Chapel (1985-1990). As a teenager, Lucy would spend summer and Christmas in Durham. “I would go to concerts at Duke, I would go to the Christmas service in the Chapel. I was quite the happy spectator of Duke endeavors in the arts!”

“I loved the facilities at Duke, particularly the funky music department building. When I met Dave in the 1990s, we connected the dots and found out that Dave had taken one of my dad’s courses,” shared Lucy.

“I took Professor Williams’s class because he was an easy A,” said Dave with a smile in his voice.

Lucy and Dave Heaton

Decades after Dave and Lucy crossed paths in the Biddle Music building, their older daughter found herself taking a music course with her late grandfather’s former colleague, Dr. Larry Todd—at one meeting, they sat next to one of the very organs her grandfather played. She would later meet Duke Carillonneur, J. Sam Hammond, who was quick to share his memories of working alongside Professor Williams in the 1980s and 90s.

The arts at Duke have grown meaningfully in the last forty years. In the last twenty alone Duke Performances, the Nasher Museum of Art, the Vice Provost for the Arts position, the Rubenstein Arts Center, and two MFA programs were all established.

“I remember my father saying that, anecdotally, he felt like at that time more graduate students were involved in the arts than undergraduate students,” said Lucy.

With the incredible strides in physical infrastructure and academic opportunities made since Professor Williams’s tenure, the Heatons are interested in exploring ways in which all students can participate in the arts.  When their artistically inclined younger daughter decided to enroll at Duke, their focus on the arts sharpened.

“We have the opportunity to learn more about how the arts—rather than being a separate program—can be an integral outlet for students to relieve the stress and distress of everything that is going on in their daily lives,” explained Dave.

“Duke students are able to enter the workplace not only as smart people, but as good, articulate people, people that are easy to engage with. I have always considered this important balance between the inside and outside of the classroom as a differentiator of Duke.”

Dave is a member of the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences Board of Visitors. “I look to the members of the board to try and find ways to contribute to this part of the Duke community—it is something that is still a priority at Duke.”

The Heatons have pledged their support of arts and wellness, particularly those student-led opportunities that can bridge classroom learning and mindful living. “I think in the last decade, incoming college students have become extremely well-experienced in the arts. I want to grow the opportunities to nurture those talents,” shared Lucy. “So many students want both a liberal arts college experience and an arts education. At Duke, you can do both, and it is a beautiful thing the university is really focusing on the arts.”

“We want to make arts more mainstream on campus,” said Dave. “We love the idea of the arts as an intramural pursuit that anyone can enjoy.”