A charitable trust that bears the name of an alumna has been known for its support of the arts for years. Now, that trust will bring enhancements to Mary Baldwin University’s Bertie Murphy Deming Fine Arts Center just as the arts programs are undergoing a strategic and energizing realignment at MBU.

The $119,000 gift from the Rea Charitable Trust will allow Mary Baldwin University to renovate the main lobby of Deming Hall; replace the floor, light fixtures, ceiling, window treatments, and desks in two classrooms; and install a new floor in the theatre lobby. Work will begin this semester and finish by the fall of 2017.

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Isabel McClintic Rea

Deming is the academic center of fine arts at MBU. It is also home to a public performance space — the Fletcher Collins Theatre — that attracts thousands each year to see theatre performances.

Isabel McClintic Rea ’39 was the daughter of a well-known Midland, Texas, ranching family and was known as one of the town’s most talented pianists. She majored in music at Mary Baldwin. Based in Midland, the trust was established in 2009 in honor of Rea and her husband, Bryce Rea Jr.

Representatives of the trust reached out to Professor of Music Lise Keiter last spring, indicating that there was a rare and narrow window of opportunity to apply for funding in support of Mary Baldwin’s performing arts programs.

“It meant a tight timetable in terms of applications. They graciously invited us to apply and we needed to act quickly,” Keiter said. “In thinking of the best project for this, what I came up with was doing something for Deming [Hall]. I didn’t want to focus on a one-time thing like an event or on a project that would benefit only music. I wanted something with a visible and lasting impact.”

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Deming Hall

Keiter enlisted the help of Professor of Shakespeare and Performance Paul Menzer, Professor of Theatre Terry Southerington ’72, and Director of Facilities Management Brent Douglass to draft the proposal that would benefit the music department as well as other segments of the performing arts community at MBU.

The timing of the gift coincides with both the creation of a new student cohort of undergraduate performing arts majors and a realignment of the performing arts studies within the university. The realignment promises to foster a higher level of collaboration, coordination, and communication among these related programs. And Deming Fine Arts Center is at the heart of this new program.

The project comes on the heels of another successful renovation as Mary Baldwin and the Heifetz International Music Institute at Mary Baldwin University partnered to raise funds to enhance the performance and audience space inside James D. Francis Auditorium, home to many Heifetz and other concerts and dozens of lectures, convocations, and classes each year on Mary Baldwin’s main campus.

Students will be excited to see similar enhancements made to their learning spaces, Keiter said.

“This will make them feel special, and that their work is important and valued at Mary Baldwin. It will make Deming a brighter, more positive learning environment,” she said.

Southerington noted that the improvements would benefit student recruitment efforts and also make a positive impression with the wider community.

“Upgrades to the Fletcher Collins Theatre will help us attract great students, and support our community involvement with our five-show theatre season,” Southerington said.

In 1983, Mary Baldwin University dedicated the Deming Fine Arts Center in honor of Bertie Murphy Deming Smith in gratitude for her family’s generous contributions in her honor. She is the largest donor in the university’s history.