Find Events Find People Find Jobs Find Sites Find Help Index


October 30, 2000

Emory arts center (finally) breaks ground

By Michael Terrazas

More than 80 years of anticipation are slowly but surely coming to an end, as the Oct. 19 groundbreaking ceremony for the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts closed another chapter in the University’s quest for such a facility.

Virtually since Emory moved to Atlanta in 1919, there has been a campus constituency calling for the construction of a performing arts center. Judging by the turnout and exuberance of the crowd gathered next to Fishburne Parking Deck for the groundbreaking, that passion for the arts has not yielded an inch.

“We have a standing-room only crowd—isn’t that a nice sign for this occasion?” said Brad Currey, chairman of the Board of Trustees. Currey went on to say the event was a “celebration of art and beauty in our daily lives” and gave Emory a chance to “pay a richly deserved tribute to Donna and Marvin Schwartz.”

Donna Schwartz, a 1962 graduate of Emory College, and her husband Marvin donated $8 million for the $36 million facility, which is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2002. Residents of New York, the Schwartzes have a daughter, Elizabeth, who graduated from Emory in 1997.

But it was their youngest child, 14-year-old Charles, whose memories of Oct. 17 may last the longest, as both his parents and some top Emory administrators relished in putting him on the spot to follow in his mother’s and sister’s educational footsteps.

If he does, Charles Schwartz will be one of the first generations of Emory students able to enjoy performing arts events in a truly world-class facility. The 98,000-square-foot center will house an 825-seat concert hall, 150-seat studio spaces for both dance and theater, along with numerous classrooms, practice spaces and administrative offices for Emory’s arts programs.

“This is a great day of preposterous happiness,” said Rosemary Magee, senior associate dean of Emory College, quoting C.S. Lewis in her remarks. Magee, along with Randy Fullerton of theater studies, helped lead the fundraising effort that is building the Schwartz Center from the ground up. Magee paid tribute to colleagues across many University departments and divisions for contributing to the project.

“We can’t overstate our gratitude,” Dean Steve Sanderson said both to the Schwartzes and the people Magee praised. “This will be not just a museum to the performing arts, but a lively center for performing arts, serving students during the day and the larger community at night.”

In introducing President Bill Chace, Currey recalled that Chace promised the campus a performing arts center in his inaugural address six years ago. “I’m reasonably certain he had no earthly idea how it was going to happen,” Currey joked.

But it happened, and Chace wasted no time in framing the event for what it was.

“This is a momentous occasion in the life of Emory University,” Chace said to the Schwartzes. “It’s hard to describe the joy you’ve brought us. You’ve made beautiful music together, and you’ve aligned us even more closely with the divine chords of the universe.”

Donna Schwartz said she was “overwhelmed” with the comments. “Many decisions in my life I’ve given a great deal of thought to,” she said. “Before making decisions, I tend to think things over carefully. This was one decision that was effortless.”

Her husband echoed those comments and made a further pledge: Marvin Schwartz invited Will Ransom, Emerson Professor of Piano and Emory pianist-in-residence, to test out Donna’s three Steinway pianos and select one for the new concert hall. He also announced he would buy four seats through the center’s seat-naming fundraising drive and name them for two of Donna’s favorite former professors, Chappell White and Thomas Brumbaugh, and for the Schwartz’ children.


Back to Emory Report Oct. 30, 2000