Celebrating the Arts Campaign Launch Dinner
Thursday, September 6, 2018, 6:00 p.m.
Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts
I would like to thank Mary Haskell for that introduction and for her tremendous and ongoing support for our university. Before I begin, let me recognize Julia Aubrey and all those involved in planning tonight’s wonderful event. I’d also like to share a heartfelt thank you to our presenters and performers. What a phenomenal evening it has been so far!
We’re so glad all of you joined us tonight in the Sam and Mary Haskell Theatre for the official launch of the Ford Center Forward capital campaign. We hope you are enjoying your backstage experience and are as thrilled as I am that actor Gerald McRaney is serving as the celebrity spokesperson for the Celebration of Arts campaign.
Here at the University of Mississippi, we have embarked upon a bold path to deliver lasting benefits to society through higher education. Every day, we see how the power of higher education transforms lives, communities, and the world. And tonight, we shine the spotlight on the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts and how this magnificent facility serves as an anchor on our campus to support transformation through the cultural arts. It’s no secret that the Ford Center has been one of the gems not only of the Oxford campus, but the state of Mississippi, for 15 years now. It’s truly a world-class arts and entertainment venue.
Most performing arts centers rely upon private contributions from individuals, foundations, corporations, and businesses to sustain operations and programming, and the Gertrude C. Ford Center is no different. University resources can cover salaries and a nominal budget. From there, we are grateful for support from the extremely dedicated Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, Friends of the Ford Center, and other alumni and friends.
Generous supporters provide funds for special appearances or series, as well as programming, advertising, and the array of other costs associated with running this exceptional facility. The Ford Center seeks sponsors for every season to invest in its mission of sustaining the arts as a key component of a comprehensive, flagship university.
I believe everyone here tonight can agree that the arts are a quintessential part of life on a college campus. The performing arts serve as a magnet to attract to our community a diverse array of dynamic, innovative people — not actors, musicians, and dancers, but as well scientists, engineers, visual artists, humanists, social scientists, lawyers, accountants, pharmacists, and journalists. Members of the university community are exposed to cultural opportunities they might not otherwise experience, from literature to music to visual and performing arts. As my wife Sharon reminds me, the arts keep everything vibrant and relevant. The arts provide an enduring legacy that offers insight into ourselves as well as cultures of other times and places.
The arts bring us beauty and joy, expand our thoughts and perceptions, and provide inspiration for the soul. And the real splendor lies in how the countless expressions of art and culture intersect across all disciplines. As a flagship institution, we’re committed to growing the capacity of our extraordinary arts and cultural resources and programs.
This evening, we are unveiling a permanent symbol of the support the Ford Center enjoys and hopes to enjoy going forward — a beautiful visual artwork that celebrates all the arts. It’s now my honor to reveal this special sculpture. The Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, Nancye Starnes, and Mary and Sam Haskell have already made major new contributions to the Ford Center that will be reflected in their names being displayed on portions of this artwork. I ask the Ford Foundation board members and their spouses Gayle and Tom Papa, Cheryl and Stephen Sims, and Helen and John Lewis as well as Nancye, Mary, and Sam to please stand. Please join me in expressing our deepest appreciation to them.
We are seeking other donors to join this campaign, and we will prominently display names upon this significant artwork.
Let me also thank all of you here tonight for your continuing support of our university. Friends of the Ford Center have provided amazing ideas and are investing their time and energy to move the Ford Center forward. With your support, I am confident that we will have a successful campaign.
With my wife Sharon’s assistance in popping the cork, let’s raise our glasses and toast the launch of the Ford Center’s capital campaign “Celebrating the Arts.” Cheers!