On July 18, 1969, the Banff School of Fine Arts hosted a special opening ceremony for a newly built practice theatre named for Margaret Greenham, a local Banff teacher dedicated to educating Alberta children in the arts. The theatre had been built with a generous and anonymous donation. An old program for the event showed that Honorary Doctorates were given by the University of Calgary to Ernesto Vinci, Earle Douglas MacPhee, and Catharine Robb Whyte to recognize their contributions to artistic, cultural and academic development.
A commemorative plaque outside the theatre acknowledges the generosity of the anonymous donor and why Margaret Greenham was honoured. Forty-four years later, it’s well known that Catharine Whyte was the anonymous donor. But I still wondered if Catharine had chosen the name of the theatre.
In most cases our Archives on-line database will lead a researcher directly to aphotographic or textual record. However, in this case, a few keyword searches for Margaret Greenham, Donald Cameron and Catharine Whyte yielded nothing, so I went to the Whyte Museum and Archives to do a little extra detective work.
Looking through Catharine Whyte’s papers was very interesting. I knew that she and her husband Peter had been generous patrons of the arts in Banff, but actually looking at her charitable donations over the decades showed a woman dedicated to using her wealth to advocate for local programs that cultivated young talent. I also noticed that Catharine almost always made her donations anonymously.