Chemistry is pretty easy to fake. Hollywood couples, reality
television show contestants and mismatched officemates do it all
the time. When chemistry is real, though, it can be a pretty wonderful
thing to watch. Rosemary Magee and Randy Fullerton have just that:
They’ve known one another for about 10 years. Since 1995,
they have worked, in various capacities and on various committees,
to bring an arts center to the Emory campus.
When a well-publicized arts center project fell through in the mid-1990s,
Magee was chosen to chair a committee tasked with picking up the
pieces of that unrealized effort. Fullerton, who had been heavily
involved in the previous project, was one of the members of that
committee. The arts center project team, as the group was named,
completed a feasibility study for a new center as well as a brand
new idea for an “arts village” to incorporate a dozen
facilities on campus that could play host to performing arts.
“I feel very fortunate to have a friend and colleague like
Randy,” says Magee, senior associate dean of Emory College
and executive director of the arts center project. She was promoted
to her senior associate deanship in 1996, but Magee has been on
campus since entering graduate school at Emory in 1977. She earned
her PhD in the Institute of Liberal Arts in 1982.
“We have very different strengths and abilities,” she
continues, “but there have been times when I’ve had
some of the most fun in my entire life working on these projects.”
The easy metaphor to use when watching Fullerton and Magee interact
is that of a tennis match. The banter goes back and forth, each
of them setting the other up for the big
That’s inaccurate, though. Particularly since they don’t
The better comparison, to continue along sports lines, is that Magee
and Fullerton are teammates on the power play. Pass, pass, shoot,
score. They complement (and frequently compliment) one another.
They instinctively know in which direction the other is headed.
Each can pick up a story where the other leaves off to give it just
a little more depth as well as a fresh perspective.
“I imagine Rosemary as the truck driver, and I’m just
in the back moving stuff around,” says Fullerton, managing
director of the arts center project and general manager of Theater
Emory, in describing their responsibilities on the project team.
“I’m gathering things or individuals and pulling them
into the truck and discarding things you don’t need. She’s
got the map and the AAA book and is figuring everything out.”
Magee and Fullerton are sitting in the arts commons room of the
almost-complete Donna and Marvin Schwartz Center for Performing
Arts. Ringing the walls are memorabilia and posters that chronicle
that long road leading up to this particular moment, which allows
two of the more crucial people in the building’s gestation
a little bit of time to reflect.
One easy-to-see difference between Magee and Fullerton is how they
tell a story. Magee is somewhat measured in her commentary; Fullerton
As Fullerton riffs on his truck references, Magee sits quietly,
a slight smile on her face. Her look whimsically asks, What are
you talking about . . . and is there a point? Fullerton continues.
“She’s just like, OK, you keep doing that, because I’m
driving off to the next place because we’ve got a goal to
reach,” he says. “Also, there are some uphill parts
where she just stays at the wheel and she knows how to downshift,
sometimes grinding the gears.”
Finally, Fullerton pauses. “That does a lot for me. The whole
truck driver image.”
The 5-foot-5-inch Magee, relatively soft-spoken and dressed in a
rather natty suit, would be a somewhat atypical truck driver, to
say the least.
“You want to get people to think outside their normal pathways,”
Magee says. “That’s something I learned from working
with artists. I’m very goal-oriented, but I used to be a lot
more linear. There’s a deadline—that’s a given—but
the creative process has to have an open end.”
Being focused on the goal. That is Magee’s strength; driving
the effort (or the, umm, truck) to get there is her responsibility.
“If you get focused on the logistics, it’s paralysis,”
she continues. “It’s administrative block.”
“That’s good.” This is Fullerton.
“Somebody asked me what I am most looking forward to in this
building,” Magee says,
“and I said the surprises.”
In truth, the surprises began several years ago. On Feb. 10, 1999,
to be exact. Magee and Fullerton were part of a troupe of Emory
representatives who traveled to New York to have dinner at the home
of alumnus William Cohen, his family and friends. After Will Ransom,
Emerson Professor of Music, entertained the gathering at the piano,
Magee, Fullerton and then-college dean Steve Sanderson discussed
their plans for an arts center on campus, which at the time was
several years in the making. A design had been determined and the
project was ready to go. The intent of their pitch, which was being
given for the first time, was to drum up possible interest in the
project and even a few donations.
When Sanderson, John Ingersoll and Geoff Taylor (from arts and sciences
development) met with Marvin Schwartz the next day, the result was
an $8 million pledge from him. He had been in attendance at dinner
with his wife, Donna, an Emory alumna (their daughter, Elizabeth,
also graduated from Emory). The experience gave all of them not
only a jolt of confidence but also an ease in going about their
business—which was important because Magee had little fundraising
experience and Fullerton none at all.
“We had the luxury of working on a project we really believed
in,” says Fullerton, who has a master’s of fine arts
in technical design and production from Yale. “For me, I was
able to break down all the pretenses in the room; it can be intimidating
at first, but then you realize people want to hear what you’re
“Our job was to tell a story,” Magee says. “You
couldn’t ask for a better job than that. The Schwartz Center’s
fundraising effort was a collaborative effort that included many
people dedicated to the arts—President [Bill] Chace, Bill
Fox, John Ingersoll, Steve Sanderson, Geoff Taylor, numerous faculty
and many, many others.”
Much of the daily work, however, fell upon the fundraising committee—Magee,
Fullerton, Emory College development officer Keira Ellis and Laura
Jones Hardman, an Emory alumna, trustee and longtime supporter of
the arts. “Everybody played a role and gave it their all,”
“The chemistry was amazing,” Fullerton says. So were
the results. Much of the $36 million needed to construct the center
has been raised, and money still comes in through programs such
as seat naming.
“You stop being afraid to ask people [for their support],”
Magee says. “People are usually flattered when you ask them”
With its opening festivities just a few months away, Fullerton and
Magee’s work on the Schwartz Center is winding down, but they
will still get to work together. They sit on the arts steering committee,
a multidisciplinary group that looks at collaborative ways to address
and grow the arts community on campus.
But now the time has come for celebration. On Nov. 20, an appreciation
party was held for the committee along with several others who helped
make the Schwartz Center’s construction possible. As part
of the festivities, Magee announced it was Randy Fullerton Appreciation
Day. The guest of honor received a crown (actually a nicely decorated
hardhat) and got to sit on a throne (a well-adorned chair). He also
was given a vat of M&Ms, the candy of choice at arts center
“I’ve been feeling awkward recently, because this effort
is not about me,” says Fullerton, who freely gives away the
candy to visitors. “This building is about people. Now I can
say that, but deep down inside I’d like the recognition that
I’ve been working on this,” he says without a trace
of arrogance. Self-effacement is a good quality, but it’s
not always appropriate. Oftentimes, a person deserves a slap on
“So, [that night], for me, it was being surrounded by the
people I’ve been working with for so many years,” Fullerton
says. “They could say ‘thank you’ to me, and I
could thank them.”
“This was an opportunity to roast and toast him,” Magee
What better way to treat a friend?