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March 17, 2009
More than 100 alumni, Northwest Foundation officials, friends of the University, faculty and staff gathered Friday, March 13, in the lobby of the campus' new Studio Theatre to honor the man whose generosity has led to a significant expansion of performance facilities available to Northwest drama students.
Speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the theatre, completed this fall, paid tribute to Maryville resident Ron Houston, president of J.L. Houston Co. in Hopkins, whose $1.3 million gift through the Foundation made the 5,500-square-foot addition to the former Performing Arts Center possible.
Now known as the Ron Houston Center for the Performing Arts, the facility also includes the 1,100-seat Mary Linn Auditorium, built in 1984.
A sign bearing the new name was unveiled outside the center at about the same time Houston cut a Bearcat green ribbon inside the lobby with a pair of oversized scissors. The ceremony preceded a student performance of the Broadway musical hit "Celebration" on the Studio Theatre stage.
Dr. Charles McAdams, dean of Northwest's College of Arts and Sciences, called the dedication a "joyous occasion" and praised Houston's longstanding contributions to the performing arts at Northwest, especially theatre.
"There is no doubt that this project would not have been possible without his support," McAdams said.
The dean was followed at the podium by Maryville Mayor Chad Jackson, who presented Houston with a plaque and read a proclamation declaring the evening to be Ron Houston Night.
Northwest President Dean L. Hubbard described Houston as a valued personal friend who has lent his support to numerous university programs and projects over the years "quietly and with incredible confidence." He also noted Houston's patronage of KXCV/KRNW, the University's public radio station.
The Studio Theatre functions as a drama laboratory and contains state-of-the-art technology, including an articulated lighting grid, a makeup lab/classroom and a new lighting and sound control system. The Studio Theatre seats up to 250 people, depending on how the space is configured, and provides a more intimate environment for student and departmental performances.
Houston's multi-year gift, when coupled with University and Northwest Foundation funds, allowed not only for construction of the Studio Theatre but also several other capital projects, including Bearcat Stadium.
"Without Ron's gift, the Northwest Foundation would not have received the bonds to construct Bearcat Stadium, which was completed in 2003. Ron's gift provided the necessary capital to facilitate the acquisition of bond financing," said Orrie Covert, Northwest's vice president for university advancement and executive director of the Northwest Foundation. "In 2007, the Foundation was able to release those funds to fulfill Ron's wishes that his gift eventually be used for the construction of the Studio Theatre."
In addition to being the lead donor for the Studio Theatre, Houston has been a longtime Northwest supporter. His contributions through the Northwest Foundation have funded the Ronald A. Houston Scholarship for students graduating from North Nodaway public schools and attending Northwest as well as a new sound system and projector in Mary Linn Auditorium. He was also a member of the Northwest Foundation Board of Directors for six years, where he was co-chair of the finance committee.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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