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Home:  >News & Events   >News Archives   >2003

Stars to be on hand for opening of Ford Performing Arts Center at the University of Mississippi

March 17, 2003

OXFORD, Miss. — A star-studded Inaugural Gala March 28 officially opens the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Three-time Oscar nominated Hollywood actor and Mississippi native Morgan Freeman hosts the evening, which showcases the talents of UM students, faculty, alumni and friends.

Other headliners are actor Gerald McRaney, country music stars Marty Stuart and his wife Connie Smith, Phantom of the Opera star Laurie Gayle Stephenson, UM’s first Miss America Mary Ann Mobley and her actor husband Gary Collins, Lawrence Welk Show alumnus Guy Hovis and actress/singer Mary Donnelly Haskell.

All five university choirs and other student ensembles will be on the program, which also features The Ole Miss Alumni Quartet of U.S. Sen. Trent Lott with Sigma Nu fraternity brothers Hovis, U.S. District Court Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr. of Cleveland and Gaylen Roberts of Norcross, Ga.

Executive producer of the 8 p.m. gala is Sam Haskell III, Amory native and executive vice president of the William Morris Agency in Los Angeles. Michael B. Seligman, who has Academy Awards and Kennedy Center honors to his credits, is producing the event.

Guest conductor is Bill Walker, whose lengthy musical career is credited with bringing mainstream variety and recording precision to Nashville, especially to the careers of Eddy Arnold, Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash and Al Hirt. He also has arranged for symphonies and composed, arranged and conducted movie scores.

“It’s going to be a very professional show, and I think that the audience will be awestruck,” said Haskell, a UM alumnus. “There will be a lot of wonderful surprises, and our show will definitely be a fitting inaugural performance in the new Ford Center.”

Chancellor Robert Khayat said, “We are blessed to present Morgan Freeman, Marty Stuart and some of the university’s most distinguished and talented students, faculty and alumni for this historic event. The performing arts center will add a tremendous dimension to the community and will be beneficial to the cultural life of all Mississippians and residents of the Mid-South.”

The spirited two-and-a-half hour program will offer a taste of Mississippi’s diverse talent. Tupelo native and UM alumnus Hovis opens the evening with combined choirs in a rousing arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

A medley of songs and dance numbers from the musical drama West Side Story will be performed by actor Wesley Rogers and the UM Showstoppers. Actress Bonnie Borst joins Rogers and the UM Wind Ensemble for “The Prayer.” Rogers and Borst are UM alumni.

Singer Marsha Tindall will perform with the University Orchestra. Tributes are planned to the founding of the Ford Center and to Mississippi playwright Tennessee Williams.

The Inaugural Gala also introduces UM student Brian Wilson of Amory as recipient of the Mary Kirkpatrick Haskell Scholarship, named for Sam Haskell’s mother, who was a public school nurse in Amory for 20 years and Mississippi’s first school nurse practitioner. The Haskell Foundation has raised more than $1 million to help deserving Mississippi children attend college.

Tickets on sale at the UM Central Ticket Office are $250 for seating in the orchestra, parterre and front mezzanine ($225 is tax deductible), and $100 for back mezzanine and back balcony seating ($75 is tax deductible). Tickets also offer show-goers opportunities to meet performers and other patrons during receptions at 7 p.m. and intermission. Suggested black-tie attire is optional.

Special $5 tickets for a March 27 dress rehearsal show at 8 p.m. are available for UM faculty, students and staff with IDs. They will go on sale March 24.

To purchase tickets by phone or for assistance related to a disability, call the Central Ticket Office at 662-915-7411.

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