Friday, May 11, 2007

Underwood Donates $1.5 Million to Renovation of Washington College's Performing Arts Center

Donation Moves Project Into Next Fundraising Phase

Chestertown, MD, May 11, 2007 — Washington College is pleased to announce that John Underwood, Chestertown resident and friend of the College, has given $1.5 million to assist in the renovation of the Gibson Performing Arts Center.

The Underwood gift pushes the total gifts and pledges for the project to more than $5 million and launches the public phase of the project, in which donations of all sizes are being welcomed. The public-phase launch was officially announced during a recent celebration at the home of John and Suzanne Whitmore in Sherwood.

The gift, made through the John G. Underwood and Nancy L. Underwood Trusts, comes over and above Mr. Underwood's previous act of generosity to the College, in which he donated $1 million to establish the Nancy L. Underwood Chair in Art and Art History. Mr. Underwood's late wife, Nancy L. Underwood, was a lifelong devotee of art and art history.

The major donation to the Gibson Performing Arts Center renovation project "is a fitting bookend to the Nancy L. Underwood Chair in Art and Art History created in 2005, and a memorial of her affection for Washington College and the arts," said Mr. Underwood. "I look forward to the lasting contribution the Fine Arts Center makes to the Washington College experience and to our community."

Mrs. Underwood was born in Wilmington, Del., and graduated with honors in 1950 from the University of Cincinnati. A retired engineer, Mr. Underwood is a graduate of Miami University in Ohio and holds a Master of Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.

The Underwoods were married at Old St. Paul's Kent in 1960, and after frequently vacationing in Chestertown during the past several decades returned to the area permanently to retire.

Mr. Underwood's gift to the Gibson project will fund the new lobby, which accordingly will be named after him and Mrs. Underwood, and will house their portrait.

"Shortly before she died, Mrs. Nancy Underwood arranged to endow the Nancy L. Underwood Chair in Art and Art History," noted Washington College President Baird Tipson. "Now her husband John has made it possible for us to create the beautiful Nancy L. and John G. Underwood Lobby in the restored Performing Arts Center. I am particularly gratified by their generosity and look forward to seeing their portrait on every visit to the Underwood Lobby."

The complete renovation and expansion of the Gibson Performing Arts Center will transform the place of the arts at Washington College, adding needed rehearsal and performance space while addressing issues of aesthetics, functionality and accessibility.

The Department of Drama will enjoy a completely renovated large theater, a brand-new experimental theater, expanded rehearsal space, office space, classroom space and green-room space. The Department of Music will have its own recital hall, better rehearsal space, more classrooms and individual rehearsal rooms, and better storage for instruments. Thedance program will continue to rehearse in its present facility in the Johnson Lifetime Fitness Center, but its performances will occur on the new stage of the large theater. Major events such as the George Washington Birthday Convocation, lectures by prominent speakers, admissions open houses, and the Concert Series will draw campus and community into the newly renovated spaces.

Not least, the upgraded facility will fill a long-standing void by constructing the Kohl Art Gallery, Washington College's first climate-controlled, secure art gallery that enables theater- and concert-goers to enjoy visiting exhibits as well as the work of Washington College's own students and faculty.

This renovation will create a modern cultural center that benefits students, College friends and community audiences alike. Theater, musical and dance performances will occur nearly every night of the week, and even on those evenings when the stages are occupied for rehearsals, the building will continue to light up the square. Not only the campus but also the entire surrounding community will come to ask regularly, "What's onstage tonight at Gibson?"

Construction of the Arts Center is expected to be completed by Fall 2009. For more information, or to make a tax-deductible donation to the project, call the Washington College Advancement Office at 410-778-7801.

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