After the sudden and tragic passing of his wife in 2015, Patrick Noonan, professor in the practice of decision & information analysis, has worked with the Atlanta theater community to create a nonprofit to honor her memory—the Jo Howarth Noonan Foundation for the Performing Arts, which seeks particularly to commission new plays with greater roles for actresses over 40. Jo, who suspended her own acting career to focus on raising her children, successfully returned to the stage later in life, but not without facing significant difficulties. “There are not enough substantial roles for actresses over the age of 40,” says foundation board member Jill Patrick. “In addition to the headwinds that older women face in so many other careers and professions, theater presents this additional obstacle.”

By commissioning new stage works, recognizing plays and screenplays that provide substantial roles for older women (also as writers and directors), sponsoring mentoring and networking events, and hosting an annual MoJo Fest, the foundation aims to have a lasting impact on theater across the country. Says Noonan, “It is a wonderful opportunity not only to celebrate Jo’s spirit, but also to multiply it. She would be delighted to see her legacy become more women contributing their artistic talent—and their wisdom—much longer in life, and on stages from coast to coast.”