Thursday marked a historic day in Kansas Wesleyan’s history, as the university announced it had surpassed the $4.5 million goal for its Music campaign. With that, the planning process is officially underway for the renovation of Sams Chapel and the Music departmental spaces.
“This is truly a special day,” said Dr. Matt Thompson, KWU president. “So many people have supported this project, and in doing so, supported Kansas Wesleyan’s future as a regional leader in the fine arts. We also recognize that this work will help both KWU students and the community, as it will once again make Sams Chapel a leading gathering space in the region. In short, this is a special day for both Kansas Wesleyan and the community of Salina.”
By exceeding the campaign’s goal, the pathway is clear to begin the long-anticipated renovation of KWU’s primary performance space. Sams Chapel, named for the parents of E.C. Sams, the then-president of JCPenney, was dedicated May 30, 1926, and has been the home of KWU Music and Theatre for the majority of the decades since. It has also hosted community events, graduation and commencement exercises, concerts, lectures and the crowning of the Lilac Queen. It remains the home of KWU Music and the university’s opening convocation, and its history is part of the efforts to recognize Pioneer Hall as a historic site.
“So many people, whether they are alumni, community members, students, staff or faculty, are invested in Sams Chapel,” said Ken Oliver, KWU executive vice president of advancement and university operations. “It has been the heart and soul of our campus for nearly 100 years, and in the process, has hosted numerous community and regional events as well. Individual lives have been changed in that space, and to be entrusted with its renovation is a tremendous responsibility. Everyone can be certain that we will make sure Sams Chapel will stand as the soul of our campus not only for the next generation of Coyotes but for the generations that follow, as well.”
The planned renovation will increase the stage space in Sams Chapel, provide new seating, improve the sound quality and create a chapel-specific entrance to Pioneer Hall, making it more attractive for concerts, speakers and other events. It will also thoroughly renovate existing Music classrooms and practice spaces, improving the day-to-day academic experience.
The start date for the renovation has not yet been determined. In the interim, KWU will immediately launch a second phase of the Music campaign, with a focus on improved scholarship opportunities, additional sound equipment, new lighting technology, improved instrumentation, and increased endowment funds.
“This moment is a credit to all who believe in the importance of the arts in higher education,” said Oliver. “This campaign improves our university and the opportunities our students have, and we will continue to fundraise to grow those opportunities even more. This tremendous support will, once again, turn Sams Chapel into a tremendous event space for our community. Thank you to all the supporters who helped us get here. We can’t wait to see the results!”
The Music campaign is part of the second phase of The Power of AND Campaign, which is approaching its goal of $26 million.