RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Department of Theatre at VCUArts has received a gift of $5 million for three endowed funds intended to “promote education and social awareness,” a release from the university said.

The money came from James H.T. McConnell, Jr., of Charlottesville, a supporter of the National Jewish Theatre Foundation and advocate for public education. According to the release, the money will be used to “examine social justice through the lens of theatre and will serve to cultivate and support a culture that is equitable and inclusive for all students, faculty and staff.”

“The theatre drama department is a great way to reach a lot of people with a lot of messages,” McConnell said in the release. “There is no right or wrong interpretation of the performance one just saw. It is that each audience member can come out with a different interpretation. The performance can still be very successful. It is a very rare type of educational experience where different people come out from the same exposure with different feelings. It’s a nice teaching tool to not limit the response or the outcome.”

The gift will go toward establishing three separate funds. An amount of $1.5 million will be used to for the James H.T. McConnell, Jr. Theatre Fellowship in Social Justice, which is intended to support graduate students advocating for social justice through theatre. The remaining money will be used for the James H.T. McConnell Jr. Theatre Chair in Social Justice and the James H.T. McConnell Jr. Theatre Faculty Fund in Social Justice, both of which will support a chairperson and faculty whose work demonstrates a commitment to social justice.

“It’s important to have grad students in the field who are able to go out and use theatre as a medium of education,” McConnell said in the release. “Whether it be for simply lighthearted performances or something more serious.”