Dorothy Gunther Pugh, founder and artistic director of Ballet Memphis, has been honored with the 2013 Thomas W. Briggs Foundation Community Service Award. The award annually recognizes the outstanding leadership and service to the community by a Memphis individual.The award was presented to Pugh at a ceremony and dinner on October 28, 2013.
The Thomas W. Briggs Foundation, founded in Memphis in 1957, works to advance youth and education, as well as to serve the greater Memphis community. Briggs, the founder of the Welcome Wagon Company, believed and practiced “working first to serve your community, and your business success will follow.”
The Community Service Award has been given annually since 1985 as a memorial to Briggs. Recent winners include Jackie Nichols, the founder of Playhouse on the Square (2012) and Jim Duncan, executive director of the Memphis Botanic Garden (2011).
Pugh was born and raised in Memphis. After graduating cum laude from Vanderbilt University, she studied with Raymond Clay and Donna Carver and performed with Dance Concert Theatre. She completed teacher-training courses at the Royal Academy of Dance in London and with noted New York ballet master David Howard. She founded Ballet Memphis in 1986 with two dancers and a budget of $75,000. Today, the professional company employs 19 dancers from around the Mid-South and around the globe, operates with a $4.2 million budget, and is lauded regularly for its artistic innovation and excellence. The combined programs of the professional company, the Ballet Memphis School and the Pilates Centre of Ballet Memphis serve more than 80,000 people each year. Pugh retired from the stage in 1991. She is married to Robert L. Pugh, a former associate professor in the psychiatry department at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. He currently is in private practice. They have two grown daughters.