Thanks to a generous $1 million challenge gift from Robert S. and Alice Andrews Jepson ’64 of Savannah, Ga., the University of Mary Washington currently is making plans to save, restore, and enhance its historic amphitheatre.
For more than a century, the “open air” amphitheatre has been a central part of the Mary Washington experience. Hidden in the grove behind Lee and Trinkle Halls, this campus landmark has been the venue of choice for numerous commencements, May Day celebrations, plays, concerts, and even weddings.
Through the years, however, weather and time have not been kind, and the amphitheater has deteriorated considerably. Consultants recently examined the site, and they warn that the amphitheatre must be restored now or it could be lost forever. They estimate the restoration to cost $3 million.
“Bob and I love Mary Washington, and my education means a lot to me,” says Alice Jepson. “I feel the restoration of the amphitheatre is a worthwhile project and one that so many classes can join in supporting.”
The restoration and rehabilitation would return the amphitheatre to its 1952-1953 appearance by repairing and reconstructing damaged and missing pieces. It would provide seating for approximately 600 people on weather-resilient benches and chairs while incorporating accommodations for ADA accessibility.
President Richard V. Hurley says students are excited about the amphitheatre restoration. “Students continue to enjoy the amphitheatre, even in its current state, and they also care about preserving the history behind it,” says Hurley. “I am absolutely thrilled that Bob and Alice Jepson have agreed to help support this important restoration initiative.”
Alice says she is looking forward to visiting campus during Reunion Weekend 2014. “I can’t wait to get back to see all the things that have happened since I was there and to take time to walk through the amphitheatre,” she says. “When President Hurley told us that students still love the amphitheatre, we decided our money would be well-invested in helping to restore this area of campus that holds so many special memories for alumni and students alike.”
In addition to the gift from the Jepsons, two other couples have made significant gifts to support the amphitheatre restoration: Elmer Morris Jr. ’50 and Marceline Weatherly Morris ’50 of King George, Va., and Laurie Mansell Reich ’79 and Henry E. Reich Jr. of Kittanning, Pa.
Architectural renderings projecting the amphitheatre’s appearance after restoration were prepared by Train & Partners Architects of Charlottesville, Va.
“Currently, the amphitheatre is just sitting in the woods degrading more and more every day. The longer it sits, the more difficult and more expensive it will be to restore, and that’s a shame,” says Design Architect Kirk Train. “The surrounding area is beautiful, serene, and bucolic. Once restored, the amphitheatre will be the perfect site for talks, dramas, classes, and performances right there in Mary Washington’s back yard.”
More information about fundraising for this important initiative and a restoration timeline will be available soon.