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A $2.5 million gift sets the stage for expansion of KU’s Lied Center

October 5, 2009

A $2.5 million gift from the Lied Foundation Trust will pave the way for the Lied Center of Kansas, one of the state’s premier performing arts venues, to expand.

The gift will fund expansion of Lied Center’s lobby, construction of an education pavilion, creation of additional office space and installation of displays about the history of Ernst F. Lied and the Lied Foundation Trust.

Since 1988, the trust established by Ernst F. Lied has provided more than $22.2 million in support for the University of Kansas. Lied attended KU from 1923-25. During his career, he owned a car dealership in Omaha and invested in Las Vegas real estate. Prior to his death in 1980, he named Christina Hixson, his associate for more than 40 years, as the sole trustee of his trust.

“My goal for the Lied Center has been to touch more people and bring new audiences to the programs and performances,” Hixson said. “This expansion will enable the Lied Center to serve more audiences, especially school children.”

Dale Seuferling, president of KU Endowment, said the impact of Christina Hixson’s stewardship of the Lied Foundation will be felt at KU for many generations. “She truly cares about making sure Kansans have access to high caliber artistic performers,” Seuferling said. “Her latest gift ensures the Lied Center can expand its community outreach efforts.”

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said that since her arrival at KU, she’s been impressed with what the Lied Center means to the KU community. “This will strengthen the Lied’s ability to fulfill its mission,” said Gray-Little.

Tim Van Leer, director of the Lied Center, said the construction will create opportunities for new programs.

“The expansion isn’t really just about having the space to do what we do. It’s also about creating a space that we can grow in,” Van Leer said. “It will allow us to have a space where we can bring teachers together for workshops, where visiting artists can hold master classes with university students, and it will be a place where teachers from schools across Kansas can bring their students.”

More than 80,000 individuals — from Kansas school children to college students to senior citizens — participate in educational activities at Lied Center each year. “This is a place where an exposure to music, theater and dance sparks a lifelong passion for the arts,” said Van Leer.

The expansion will make a positive difference throughout Lied Center, Van Leer said. The enlarged lobby will provide needed space during high-attendance events. The educational pavilion also will provide a venue for meetings, pre- and post-performance activities and receptions. The additional office space will allow consolidation of staff offices into one area of the building.

The Lied Center is the performing arts center for the University of Kansas and is a premier venue for the arts in Kansas. Its mission is to engage audiences and artists through presentation, education, research and service. The Lied Center vision is to make the performing arts accessible to the people of Kansas. Since it opened in 1993, it’s estimated that one million people have attended events at the Center.

The expansion plans will be submitted to the Kansas Board of Regents at their Oct. 14-15 meeting.

Other Lied Foundation gifts to KU have included $10 million for the construction of the Lied Center, $3.1 million for Lied Center outreach programming, $5 million for student scholarships and $1.5 million for medical research.

The gift will be managed by KU Endowment, the official fundraising and fund-management foundation for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.
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October 5, 2009
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Michelle Keller
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