Gifts to Visual Arts Complex create a living space to honor a true friend

In 1998, Deborah Haynes interviewed with Antonette ("Toni") Rosato for a position as a professor of art and art history at CU-Boulder. Not only did Haynes land the job, she began one of the most meaningful friendships of her life.

"Sitting at breakfast that first day," Haynes says," we initiated a tradition of conversation over meals about the mundane details of our lives, but also about art, the wider world, and spiritual life."

Work and conversation brought the two women closer. So it was a shock when Rosato was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2004. 

Haynes was part of a team of friends who supported Rosato through the challenges posed by the disease and treatment. "On long drives to the medical center in Denver, I learned about chemotherapy and radiation, CT and PET scans, fMRIs and cyber-knife surgery," Haynes writes in her book, The Book of This Place: The Land, the Art, and Spirituality. "When, on the ride home, (Rosato) would ask, 'Didn't he say the lesions were disappearing?' I'd pull out my notes from that visit and say as gently as I could, 'No. The doctor said that the lesions are now multiplying and affecting different centers of your brain.' "

Haynes even assisted with personal care when Rosato's vision, hearing, and movement had sharply deteriorated. Wearing a bright orange jacket so Rosato could see her, Haynes writes, "Stretching across her bedrail, I told her how much I loved her and said goodbye. I could see that she understood me because a tear slid down the side of her face. When I returned... and drove up to her house, I knew Toni had died: her bed was no longer at its place beside the window."

Haynes began to think about a meaningful way to honor Rosato's memory. Inspired by the philanthropy of her husband, David Thorndike, Haynes had noticed the impact he had made with major gifts to his alma mater, and the fulfillment he found in the giving process. Inspiration also came from CU-Boulder's new Visual Arts Complex, the major upgrade to visual arts classrooms, studios, and display spaces Haynes and Rosato had watched develop together.

By making a gift to name a sculpture studio after Rosato, Haynes could ensure her friend's legacy would live on not only in her art, but also in a space bearing her name that would inspire great art. In addition to their own gift, Haynes and Thorndike rallied support from friends of Rosato. After several months, Haynes and friends were able to fund and name the Antonette Rosato Studio.

Haynes found the giving experience so fulfilling that she and Thorndike also funded the naming of the Deborah Haynes and David Thorndike Visiting Artist Studio for a visiting artist program that brings nationally recognized artists to the campus.

"Everything I have done has been to give back to this institution," she says. "The University of Colorado has given me so many opportunities, so much inspiration, and the friendship of Antonette."