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$22 million to a performing arts center / $1.5 million to endow a marching band
Alumnus Carl W. Smith And His Wife, Hunter, Support Efforts To Enhance The Arts At The University Of Virginia

April 24, 2003 -- Carl and Hunter Smith have been investing in the University of Virginia for many of the 45 years they have lived in Charlottesville – and always with an eye toward furthering the University’s goals and aspirations.

Today, through a combination of personal pledges and foundation commitments, the Smiths pledged $22 million to the University toward a $47 million performing arts center and $1.5 million to endow a student marching and concert band.

Smith said he and his wife were drawn to the performing arts center project for many of the same reasons they got involved in the expansion of the University’s football stadium more than six years ago.

“After the stadium was enlarged, thousands of people -- many of them from the community -- who seldom see a U.Va. football game were able to enjoy the sport in one of the most beautiful college venues in the country,” said Smith, a 1951 graduate of the University’s College of Arts & Sciences. “We see the performing arts center as a place so visible and so accessible that, like the stadium, it will be a bridge to the community.”

The Smiths envision the center as the cornerstone of the Arts Grounds, a planned ensemble of new and expanded facilities for the University’s arts programs. Completion of the new building will also be a major step toward fulfilling the University’s aspirations to enhance the study and performance of the arts at U.Va. and to build on an increasingly vibrant music department. “It is our intent that the University will have one of the finest performing arts facilities in the country,” Smith said.

The gifts have special significance to University President John T. Casteen III, who in 1998 launched an initiative to make the arts one of the University’s recognized strengths. He said the performing arts center will be the linchpin in that initiative.

“Hunter and Carl Smith continue to amaze and surprise us,” he said in announcing the gifts. “They always have been thoughtful in assessing the University’s needs and its long-term aspirations, and looking to see where they can best help us realize our goals. Their extraordinary generosity will leave an indelible mark on University life for generations to come.”

It is the Smiths’ hope that the performing arts center also will help recruit top student scholars in the arts and will create new opportunities and visibility for the music and drama departments. “The implications of the center on music programs at the University are significant,” Mrs. Smith said. “It creates new opportunities for students and new visibility for the department.”

Elizabeth Hudson, chair of the music department, speaks with enthusiasm about what the new center will do for both the faculty and students in her department. “It will have an impact at just about every level,” she said, “and it should prove to be an outstanding recruiting tool. But more than that, it says that music is important at the University of Virginia.”

The idea for a performing arts center began to take shape several years ago during the University’s long-term planning process known as Virginia 2020. The goals emerging from the planning effort called for ensuring that the arts hold a prominent place in the student experience, for expanding the cultural resources of the community and for creating an environment in which the arts can thrive.

The 100,000-square-foot center will be built on the corner of Massie Road and Emmet Street near University Hall and the site of a new basketball arena/special events center, scheduled for completion in 2006. The location affords ready access to parking, and it will be linked via the new Groundswalk, currently under construction, to other facilities on the Arts Grounds and to Central Grounds. The building will house a concert hall of at least 1,200 seats; instructional and performance spaces, including a “black box” theater; rehearsal, storage and office space for the marching and concert band; music department offices and performance management space.

While construction is expected to begin by Dec. 31, 2004, the design phase, including selection of the architect, will proceed within the next few months.

Creation of the marching and concert band, a joint venture between the music and athletics departments, has a more ambitious time line, with plans for the band to have its football debut in the fall of 2004.

To make that a reality, Hudson intends to add an experienced band director to the performance faculty as soon as possible. The director’s first job will be to field a band of some 200 strong.

Last fall, even before discussions of a gift from the Smith family, music department faculty expressed support for the establishment of a band as a means of enhancing performance opportunities for students and attracting talented musicians to the University.

The University is the only school in the Atlantic Coast Conference that does not have a marching band. Hudson has sought guidance of her counterparts at Virginia Tech, the University of North Carolina and the University of Maryland, some of whom believe that U.Va. has the potential to become one of the top bands in the country within five to 10 years.

Mrs. Smith, both a patron of the arts and a loyal football fan, said, “A marching band will be a great addition to the game-day experience at U.Va. It’s going to be very exciting.”

Craig K. Littlepage, director of athletics, also called the band a wonderful addition. “The introduction of a first-class marching and concert band goes hand-in-hand with the department’s goal to be top ranked in all of its programs.”

Over the years, the Smiths have supported University endeavors in architecture, law, medicine, business, the Children’s Medical Center, the Jefferson Scholars program and athletics.

In 1997, they pledged $25 million, then the largest single monetary gift in the University’s history, toward the expansion of Scott Stadium and for construction of a football stadium at the University’s College at Wise in Southwest Virginia. The area encompassing Scott Stadium was later named the Carl Smith Center in honor of Smith, a former scholarship football player for Virginia.

The founder of AMVEST Corp., an international company specializing in coal mining, natural gas production and finance, Smith is making these gifts through a combination of personal pledges and commitments from the Carl W. Smith donor-advised fund of The Community Foundation Serving Richmond & Central Virginia.

Contact: Carol Wood, (434) 924-1400

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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Last Modified: Thursday, 24-Apr-2003 13:18:35 EDT
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