AUBURN, AL – Auburn University held a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday, April 1, at 1:30 p.m., to celebrate the construction of a new performing arts center. Located across from the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art on South College Street in Auburn, the center’s proximity to the museum creates a new arts district for the university, community, and region. The center is expected to be complete by 2019, with programming beginning that year.
The construction of the center is made possible through a $25 million lead gift from 1957 graduates John and Rosemary Brown. The gift was announced as part of an overall $57 million commitment, the largest in university history, in support of Because This is Auburn — A Campaign for Auburn University.
“We are thankful that John and Rosemary believed in our vision for a world-class performing arts center and provided the spark that set us on our path to making this dream come true,” said Jay Gogue, Auburn University president. “This center will benefit Auburn’s students in immeasurable ways and will enrich the cultural life of the Auburn community and the region. Its exceptional artistic programming will enhance the breadth of cultural expression at Auburn.”
Programming in the new performing arts center will include a wide range of high-quality artistic opportunities, from nationally touring Broadway productions to dance, orchestra, and symphony performances, to student and faculty music and theater performances. Designed to house functional spaces with superior acoustics and fully integrated technology, the new center will include a 1,200-seat main performance hall, an open lobby, and a porch and lawn that will serve as an additional performance venue.
Benefactors John and Rosemary Kopel Brown earned bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering and chemistry, respectively. John retired as president, CEO, and chairman of the board of Stryker Corporation, where he took the company public and increased revenue from $17 million in 1976 to $6 billion. Rosemary began her career as a mathematics teacher, a position she held for almost 30 years, and affected hundreds of students along the way.
Rosemary has served on numerous community boards of directors, including Freed Hardeman University, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and currently the Atlanta Opera. John has served on the boards of St. Jude Medical and the American Business Conference.
The Browns have remained dedicated and committed partners with Auburn University, supporting scholarships and programs within engineering, sciences and mathematics, performing arts, and veterinary medicine for nearly four decades. They also have endowed an eminent scholar chair in the Department of Chemical Engineering and the first endowed eminent scholar chair in the College of Sciences and Mathematics.