Westport Country Playhouse renamed for $3 million donor

WESTPORT — The campus of the Westport Country Playhouse will now be named The Howard J. Aibel Theater Center at Westport Country Playhouse thanks to a $3 million donation from Aibel.

“I have found live theater to be life transformative,” Aibel, a Weston resident and Playhouse board of trustees since 2005, and current board vice chair, said upon announcement of the donation Feb. 13.

A former international dispute resolution attorney and before that, Executive Vice President and Chief legal officer of ITT Corporation, Aibel has been active in many nonprofit organizations. He previously served as chairman of the Alliance of Resident Theatres in New York and as a member of the Weston Conservation Commission and is presently a trustee emeritus of Sacred Heart University.

“This is not only financial sustenance; it is spiritual sustainability — his belief now enabling us to create the highest level of work,” Mark Lamos, Playhouse artistic director, said of Aibel’s donation, comprised of $500,000 designated for current operations, $500,000 for working capital reserve, and $2 million set to establish an endowment held in an irrevocable trust.

“The importance of Howard’s gift establishing an endowment can’t be overstated,” Michael Barker, Playhouse managing director, said, adding, “While there is still work to do, for the first time in our 87-year history, we can begin to envision a sustainable Playhouse.”

Playhouse board of trustees chair Barbara Streicker said Howard continues to be a champion of the Playhouse’s planned giving program. “His gift opens an important new chapter in inspiring others to preserve their legacy by including the Playhouse in their estate plans and investing in its future,” Streicker said.

svaughan@hearstmediact.com; @SophieCVaughan1