For 40 years, the idea of a new fine and performing arts center on the Pittsburg State campus has been a notation on a budget request, a part of the master plan or a goal to reach. But on Thursday, PSU moved much closer to turning 40 years of work into an occupied building.
Pittsburg State announced on Thursday that the Fine and Performing Arts Center had received a $5 million gift through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, made possible with support and a recommendation from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation.
The gift is in honor of Pitt State alumnus and former Walmart President/CEO H. Lee Scott, who is also the brother of Pittsburg State President Steve Scott.
“As president of Pittsburg State University, I’m very proud of Lee’s accomplishments, and as his brother, I’m even more proud of him. In both roles, I’m especially appreciative that he directed this gift to Pittsburg State University,” Steve Scott said.
Five years ago, under then-president Tom Bryant, the university announced a $10 million gift from an anonymous donor, the largest single gift the university had ever received.
Fundraising efforts have continued since then, and even ramped up as the project has moved forward. With Thursday’s gift in H. Lee Scott’s honor, the project has now raised or received pledges for close to $20 million of the estimated $30 million cost of the building.
But that’s not all. A student referendum is underway to approve of additional student fees to help fund several projects throughout campus. If approved, this would send an additional $7 million to the Fine and Performing Arts Center, leaving the project only an estimated $3.5 million short of its estimated cost.
Steve Scott celebrated the success and progress to this point.
“There has bever been a better time to join us in this journey. Those donors who have believed in this project from the beginning have helped make the path forward clear,” Scott said. “Our momentum is strong. Our vision is clear. And we believe in the future of the Fine and Performing Arts Center at Pittsburg State University and what it will mean to the entire region.”
The building is estimated to include 90,000 square feet and would include an 1,100-seat performance hall, a 250-seat theater, as well as green rooms, rehearsal space, management offices and a scene shop.
But Cynthia Allan, department of communications chairwoman and theater director, said that there are other considerations that make the new building perfect for PSU. That includes restrooms nearby for theater patrons, who she said won’t have to leave the building and enter another door around the corner during intermissions once the new building is complete.
“We are going to be more sustainable, have more resources, and able to better plan our season,” Allan said. “We can increase performances, increase the number of shows, and so much more.”
Page 2 of 2 - While the student referendum is not yet complete, Allan said that early anecdotal feedback has been only positive for a project that is years in the making.
“In our department, no student has been negative about the performing arts center,” she said. “I overheard a student conversation in the lobby deciding how they felt about the fee increase. And they said they don’t know if they need all of these projects, but they know we need the performing arts center.”
H. Lee Scott and PSU
The announcement was at times as much a celebration of a Pittsburg State alumnus than a celebration of the performing arts center.
Lee Scott, who served Walmart’s President and CEO from 2000 to 2009, was not at the announcement, but sent remarks through a prepared statement.
“When people ask me about my time at Walmart and my relationship with the Walton family, I always respond, ‘Being at Walmart for 31 years not only made me a better leader, it made me a better leader, it made me a better person.’ With the help of the foundation and the completion of the Fine and Performing Arts Center, Pittsburg State will become a more complete university.”
Scott graduated from what would become the Kelce College of Business in 1971 and was raised with his brother in Baxter Springs. He joined Walmart in 1979 as assistant director of the private truck fleet. During his time as president and CEO of Walmart, the company grew by 243 percent in global sales, 277 percent in earnings, and 249 percent in profits.
Andrew Nash can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 231-2600 ext. 140.