Jae French's first visit to Ithaca College was anything but dull. She toured the campus and got to know several students and staff. She attended a concert in Ford Hall and an Ithaca College Theatre performance in Dillingham Center. She also visited the Handwerker Gallery.
But what really captured her attention? A pair of hands, splayed and aching from the repetitive movements required to perfect the piano.
"I sat in on a physical therapy session specifically for musicians," Jae says. "I was so impressed by the therapist and how he worked with these artists to make changes in their technique and help eliminate their pain."
Jae's visit was more than sightseeing. In 1991, at a crucial point in her career, Jae was injured in an accident that both medical and art experts believed would prevent her from ever sculpting again. For five months both of her arms were paralyzed from fingertips to shoulders. That's when she realized the recuperating power of clay and art therapy.
"For me, the cure did not come easy until I incorporated conventional physical therapy with the healing power of music, art, and dance. Music eases the pain; sculpting and painting emphasize dexterity of the fingers and the hands; and dance makes one move," she says. "I started to think about how I could help other people do the same."
So Jae began researching programs that would do just that. She combed the Internet to find one suitable for her philanthropy. A single name kept rising to the top.
"Ithaca College was the only shining star in the entire country," she says. "Many schools had physical therapy programs that used only music or only art, but nobody else does the full spectrum."
Jae decided to make a bequest to the college's PT department. She designated her gift to create a scholarship for students who are interested in incorporating the arts into their clinical practice.
"The students who learn at Ithaca College are going to give so much back to society," she says. "This gift is going to live forever, and that's really what it's all about. It's a wonderful legacy."
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