June 20, 2014 11:15AM
Pittsburg State University’s Center for the Arts, now under construction, has a name. On Friday, June 20, PSU President Steve Scott announced that the facility will be known as the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, in honor of lead donor Gene Bicknell, his wife, Rita, and their family.
In making the announcement, Scott said when Bicknell made his initial gift, he asked to remain anonymous.
“Until today, this donor has wished to remain anonymous in order to allow the focus of our efforts to remain where they should be, on this facility,” Scott said. “This fact speaks volumes to the character of the donor and of the family.”
The president praised Bicknell not only for his generosity, but also for his vision for a decades-old project that had failed to move beyond hopes and dreams.
“This project had been languishing on the drawing boards for nearly 30 years before Gene stepped forward in July of 2008 to become the lead donor,” Scott said. “His transformational gift gave life to this project and inspired others to join us. Gene has been an integral part of this project from the very beginning. He has pushed us to achieve more than we thought was possible.”
Bicknell, who came to campus at the age of 16 and earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from PSU, said he remembered the important role that Carney Hall, the university’s first performance venue, played in campus and community life.
“Since the loss of Carney Hall, there has been a noticeable void on the campus of Pittsburg State University,” Bicknell said. “The new Center for the Arts will create a cultural climate that offers new opportunities to students and will be a magnificent venue for patrons of the arts to enjoy theatrical, musical, artistic and educational productions.”
Scott said Bicknell’s commitment to the facility was rooted in his devotion to the community.
“For Gene, this project has never been about recognition,” Scott said. “It’s about academics. It’s about community. It’s about the future of our region.”
In the months and years following Bicknell’s initial gift, Scott said, others stepped forward to support the project. To date, nearly 600 donors have given to the center with many more expected to join them. Scott singled out PSU students for particular praise for voting to commit $7 million to the project and the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation for investing $5 million in honor of PSU graduate H. Lee Scott.
Bicknell has been a longtime supporter of Pittsburg State University. He was one of the founders of the PSU Foundation and served as its president. He chaired the Kansas Technology Center fund drive and PSU’s first capital campaign.
The $33 million Bicknell Family Center for the Arts is slated to be completed this fall.