Before they left Lamoni, JR and Carol Shaw said the many events of the Shaw Center Dedication over Homecoming weekend created one of the best times they have ever had. And, created memories they will never forget.
The 3,000 people on “the Hill”—who arrived for the jam-packed weekend of musical magic, theatrical excellence, and just plain Homecoming fun—felt exactly the same way. Even the fickle southern Iowa weather came through for us Saturday to create the perfect fall-classic weekend.
Thank you, JR and Carol, not only for the sensational expanded Shaw Center you have given Graceland and our students, and not only for a weekend of spectacular events, but also thank you for being Gracelanders.
Student recitals and concerts throughout the week led up to the dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. in the Auditorium. As JR pointed out, the dedication was the culmination of many years of planning and discussion about transforming the original 1982 Shaw Center into what he always hoped it would become—a true center for the arts and a center for daily life on campus. JR, it has happened.
Speaking at the dedication ceremony, Graceland President John Sellars called the Shaw Center “…a living testament to the love Francis and Lottie Shaw, JR’s parents, shared for the arts and their faith and commitment to young people.” That love and faith was bequeathed to JR and Carol, whose $16 million gift made the expanded Shaw Center possible.
Everett Graffeo, JR’s 1956 roommate at Graceland, provided a stirring opening prayer. Everett spoke from his heart of how the Shaw Center will be “…a place of hospitality, and caring, of excellence and beauty, of learning and performing, of purpose-finding and faith-building.”
Community of Christ President Stephen Veazey, representing our sponsoring church, eloquently captured the moment in his remarks: “Through this act of dedication, we are also expressing our hope to
God and each other that those who will teach, and learn, perform, create and work here will be blessed as they endeavor to discover and express their full capacity and the inherent giftedness of their lives.”
When maestro Jack Ergo accompanied recent GU graduate Andrew Naylor in a triumphant violin performance, when senior Anna Rider, soprano, sang a rousing piece from “Candide,” that giftedness of our faculty and students became immediately apparent.
Graceland Board Chair Ken McClain noted that two GU presidents, both on the podium, bookend the Shaw expansion project: former president, Ambassador John Menzies, who in 2003 began talking with JR Shaw about the project, and current president Sellars, who helped bring the project to fruition.
He pointed out also how one facility after another – The Helene Center for the Visual Arts, the Resch Science and Technology Hall, the Small and Thomas Apartments, the Fitzgerald Fitness Center, and now the expanded Shaw Center – have sparked a facilities renaissance at Graceland. He noted that “…JR and Carol’s inspirational example and leadership are providing us direction on what a university of excellence looks like to the world.”
When JR Shaw came to the podium and announced that the expanded Shaw Center project “…is now complete!” there was a thunderous round of applause. JR’s voice cracked a bit as he described how his father, Francis, would be so proud of the new facility.
JR talked about how the recession of 2008 put a hold on the expansion project. He proudly noted that all those involved persevered to make the project a reality, and how his family now looks upon the facility as a lasting tribute to Francis and Lottie, his mother. Speaking of his parents, JR said, “They gave us our start. They gave us the foundation. They installed strong work ethics, and that was so important. And they gave us compassion.”
JR urged the dedication crowd to attend one or both of the great Jens Lindemann concerts that he said provided a nice Canadian flavor to the weekend. “Attend these great concerts,” JR encouraged the audience. “You will pay 10 dollars for a ticket and receive $1,000 worth of entertainment.”
Shaw family members gathered on the auditorium stage for the long-awaited ribbon cutting, and at about 4 p.m., just before a gala reception began in the beautiful new Atrium, a new era of arts and campus life began at Graceland.
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