Gonzaga Blesses Transformative Woldson Performing Arts Center

SPOKANE, Wash. – Leaders from Gonzaga University, the city and the arts community as well as Spokane alumni gathered recently for a blessing ceremony formally marking the start of construction of the transformative two-story, 58,543-square-foot Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center made possible by an extraordinary gift from the late Miss Myrtle Woldson.

“We are so grateful to all of you for coming together on this special day and taking the opportunity that we have to bless together what is going to be a remarkable facility for Gonzaga University and a remarkable next expression of Miss Woldson’s legacy,” said Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh at the July 13 event . “She had such a significant impact on Spokane in so many ways, many of which were during her life unheralded.”

President McCulloh said the opportunity to know Miss Woldson was “truly one of the great blessings of my time in this work – to come to understand just how long and deep her relationship with Gonzaga University was. It was quiet in its expression but it was long.”

President McCulloh recognized Monty and Mark Danner, Miss Woldson’s personal representatives, who were in attendance, noting their partnership in defining her legacy at Gonzaga. He also thanked Spokane Mayor David Condon for his contributions to Gonzaga’s “understanding of Miss Woldson and our ongoing relationship to her.”

The facility, expected to be completed before the end of 2018, launches a new era for Gonzaga’s leadership in the performing arts and humanities and provides a magnificent venue for arts in the community. The center and the Jundt Art Center and Museum will form the keystones of an arts village on the west side of campus.

Gonzaga announced Miss Woldson’s gift when it launched the Gonzaga Will fundraising campaign in fall 2015, the largest capital campaign in the school’s history. The gift will fully fund the facility’s construction and also establish a transformational scholarship fund to help ensure talented, high-financial-need students can realize their dream of becoming Gonzaga students.

“The building is going to be a magnet for students to develop and grow their talents in music, theatre and dance, and it will make the arts more visible across the Inland Northwest,” said Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, interim academic vice president, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a literature professor who during the event referenced the poem “Touch Me” by Stanley Kunitz.

“The poem ends with the lines, ‘Touch me, remind me who I am.’ This is exactly what Miss Woldson, through this gift, is doing. She is touching us, she is touching Gonzaga, she is touching Spokane. Her touch reminds us who we at this university are: A Jesuit institution where we have a fundamental commitment to the arts and their role in the formation of individuals for the benefit of society. Miss Woldson is giving us an opportunity to be our best and we will take that responsibility very, very seriously.”

Among the structure’s many design features are a 750-seat performance theatre named for Father Bernard J. Coughlin, S.J., chancellor of Gonzaga, as well as a 150-seat recital/rehearsal hall for music and dance. In addition, the center will include a replica of the main floor of Miss Woldson’s home, including actual artifacts that Miss Woldson bequeathed to Gonzaga.

Father Pat Lee, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry, blessed the facility following an original dance performance by Gonzaga students inspired by pioneering dance innovator Loie Fuller and choreographed by Suzanne Ostersmith, assistant professor of dance. Ian Loe (’18), a double major in music and broadcasting, composed the music.

“Bless all of our donors whose generosity has enabled us to experience the transformative powers of the arts on this campus,” said Fr. Lee in the blessing. “Now because of the generosity of Miss Myrtle Woldson, our hearts will continue to be stirred by music, theatre and dance.”

To crown the ceremony, English Professor and Washington State Poet Laureate Tod Marshall recited an original poem he wrote for the occasion titled, “The Art of Bringing Us Together.”