October 26, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – The new Mary and Sash Spencer Performing Arts Center took center stage during Siena Heights University’s Homecoming Weekend, October 5-7, 2018. The Performing Arts Center was dedicated on October 6.
Opening on time to begin the Fall 2018 semester, the $11 million facility features a new theater, music hall, band room, dance studio, and modern classroom and office space that has filled a long-time need.
An entirely new theater was constructed, and the existing Francoeur Theater was renovated to house the new music hall. The band room – formerly in the basement of Sage Union – is also a welcome addition, as is the new dance studio and scene shop. The project expanded the footprint of the existing facility by more than 18,000 square feet.
In a related project, the space outside the Spencer PAC and Studio Angelico also underwent a transformation over the summer. The circle drive was removed and a new green space was created that will serve as a new outdoor “hangout” for the students. That space was also ready for the start of the new academic year.
“We come together today to celebrate that a special dream has come true,” said Sister Peg Albert, OP, President of Siena Heights University. She noted that when she arrived as President 12 years earlier, she had been told of the amenities that the music and theater students needed. “Now we have this state-of-the-art facility where students can learn, perform, and entertain all of us. … Our hearts our filled with gratitude today to all who made this possible.”
Mark DiPietro, Professor of Theater and Chair of the Performing Arts Division, had given the Siena Heights community a sneak peek at the new facility by directing the musical “Young Frankenstein” in April. He said the approximately 350-seat facility features computerization, a light booth, sound system, and a full fly system that is rare in college settings.
He recalled the day 23 years ago when he, then-President Rick Artman, and Doug Miller of the Theater Department discussed the need for a new facility for the performing arts. “Look what we’ve got now,” he said. “It was worth the wait.” Thanking the benefactors who funded the new facility, he said, “I want you to know that it’s not in vain. Our alums in music and theater are spread all over the world. We have musicians playing in orchestras in China, in Europe, throughout Asia. We have actors who are performing at the Met and Carnegie Hall this year. The Siena name is everywhere.”
Mary Spencer, a major donor to the project, spoke of the importance that the arts played in her life, as a child and in her 47-year marriage to Sash Spencer. Her donations to Siena Heights for the Performing Arts Center, as well as for the Donna and Delbert McLaughlin Student Center – named for her parents – helped to foster that love for the arts in others. “May this Performing Arts Center bring much joy to the students and the faculty here at Siena Heights for many years to come,” she said.
“Very often in our acting classes, we refer to the theater as our temple,” said Allison Szymanski, a theater student. “It provides us sanctuary in times of stress, education in times of ignorance, but most importantly it provides us a home.”
Allison thanked the benefactors and all members of the Siena Heights community for helping in the construction of the new building. “The Performing Arts Center is more than just an opportunity to keep true to our traditions as saints, but an opportunity to create wonderful and new experiences that will last us far beyond our days at Siena Heights University.”
“Over these past six years, the Music Department has tripled in size and grown immeasurably in quality,” said Alexa Howard, a music education major. “Watching this facility built from the ground up has been truly an amazing experience. I cannot wait to come back years after I graduate as a proud Siena alum and see how the Music Department has grown even more.”
Also speaking during the celebration were the Honorable Margaret Noe ’75, Chair of the Board of Trustees; Deborah Haller, major benefactor for the Deborah F. Haller Stage in the PAC; Iqbal Roshd ’83, major benefactor for the Iqbal and Tanzila Roshd Lobby of the PAC; and Bronna Kahle, State Representative.
The celebration continued with a performance by the Acapelicans, Siena Heights’ a capella music group; a surprise performance by the Marching Band; a blessing by Sister Mary Jones, OP, Director of Mission and Ministry; and a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Photos courtesy of Siena Heights University: Mark DiPietro ’83, Division Chair of Visual and Performing Arts, speaks of the significance of the Performing Arts Center for students. Sister Peg Albert, OP, PhD, President of Siena Heights University, left, and benefactor Mary M. Spencer, center, receive a tribute from the State of Michigan from State Representative Bronna Kahle. The Siena Heights University Marching Band makes a surprise appearance at the end of the dedication ceremony. Benefactor Iqbal Roshd ’83, left, prepares to bless the Performing Arts Center. Watching are Sister Peg Albert, OP, PhD, President of Siena Heights University, center, and Sister Mary Jones, OP, Director of Mission and Ministry.