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Smith family gift pushes University of Alabama’s Rising Tide campaign over $1 billion

The University of Alabama’s Rising Tide Capital Campaign has surpassed $1 billion in charitable commitments toward its $1.5 billion goal, thanks to a recent gift commitment of $20 million made in memory of Mark Smith, co-founder of the global telecommunications company Adtran. The Performing Arts Academic Center will be named the Smith Family Center for the Performing Arts, pending approval by the UA System Board of Trustees.

“We are grateful to the Smiths for what is not only an incredible legacy for their family but a lasting inheritance for our students, community and generations to come,” said UA President Stuart Bell. “This stunning new facility will further transform our campus, allow us to showcase our students’ exceptional talents and make UA a beacon for the performing arts.”

Fueled by four generations of love for the arts, the Smith family’s gift is primarily to honor Mark Smith, an Alabama native who died in 2007. Smith grew up in a house full of musicians and he always emphasized the importance and power of music with his family.

“Our family’s passion for the arts goes back many generations,” said Mark’s son, Clay, who made the gift alongside his wife, Cameron, and his mother, Linda, a longtime resident of Huntsville. “Music and the arts have impacted our family tremendously. They defined my father, and they helped define me. To give back to the community in this way while honoring my dad’s memory is incredibly rewarding.”

The Smith Family Center for the Performing Arts, which will connect to the restored Bryce Main housing UA’s new welcome center, will be the new home of UA’s department of theatre and dance and include four performance theaters – a black box theater with flexible seating for 175-275, a 350-seat proscenium-style theater, a 450-seat venue designed for dance, and a dance studio theater with flexible space for rehearsals, recitals and smaller performances.

The state-of-the-art rehearsal and production space will allow UA theatre and dance faculty to train students in facilities equivalent to the ones in which they would work professionally.

“We are humbled and grateful for the generosity of the Smiths,” said Joseph Messina, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This gift will enable us to continue to offer a high-caliber performing arts education and showcase our talented students and faculty through a world-class facility.”

The Smiths’ gift to name the center isn’t the first they’ve made in Mark’s memory. Clay, a graduate of the Culverhouse College of Business, created an endowed scholarship at UA in his father’s name in 2007. More recently, Linda and Clay gave $1 million to name the Mark C. Smith Boardroom in UA’s newly constructed Hewson Hall.

After seeing the scope of the center, the Smith family considered it an unrivaled performing arts project.

“We knew, just looking at the Bryce property and the university’s plans for it, that we had to be involved collectively as a family,” Clay said. “It’s a venue that will foster artistic expression for students and facilitate the skills they need to launch careers in the performing arts.

“And, if you look at the historical relevance of Bryce Main, it is one of the most historically significant institutions in the state. To have a performing arts center adjacent to it is going to be spectacular. It’s a diamond in the rough – when the diamond gets cut and cultivated and cleaned, it’s going to sparkle and be really special, not only for the university but also for the surrounding community. As a family, we’re excited and pleased that we can help be a part of this magnificent project.”

The Smith family’s gift was integral in pushing UA’s Rising Tide Capital Campaign over $1 billion. To date, more than 133,000 donors have contributed about $1.02 billion to the campaign. Already, the Rising Tide has created more than 650 scholarships and nearly 40 faculty-support funds, and it has affected more than 500,000 square feet of space across the UA campus.

With goals of raising $1.5 billion and creating 1,000 scholarships and 75 faculty endowments, the Rising Tide is more than 67% to its goal a little more than five years into the 10-year fundraising effort.

Pending final approval from the Board of Trustees, the Smith Family Center for the Performing Arts is scheduled to be complete in 2026.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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