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Archive for Saturday, April 17, 2004

Lied Center a great gift to Lawrence and the Midwest

April 17, 2004

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This evening, about 2,000 people will gather in the Lied Center on Kansas University's west campus to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the center as well as the 100th anniversary of the Kansas University Concert Series.

The featured attraction will be internationally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. It should be a glorious evening with the musical skills of Ma, the beautiful setting of the Lied Center and the acoustically superb concert hall.

The Lied Center opened in September 1993 and has become one of the true crown jewels of the KU campus. The center has played host to a tremendous variety of programs designed to attract and please audiences of all ages and interests.

It has brought thousands upon thousands of individuals to the campus who had never visited the university. It has served as a front porch for the school, playing a major role in attracting students to KU and enriching the lives of so many.

The Lied Center is on the KU campus because of the generosity of Christina Hixson and the work of former KU Chancellor Gene Budig, who encouraged Hixson to fund the building with a gift of $10 million. The money came from the Lied Foundation of which Hixson is the sole trustee.

In addition to funding for the Lied Center, Hixson provided funds to help attract various performers and shows to the center as well as helping fund a growing outreach program in which many artists performing at the Lied also perform and teach in other locations throughout the state. Funds also have been made available to provide Lied tickets for people who might not have the opportunity to see or hear nationally known and highly skilled performers.

The outreach program is a wonderful project in so many ways and, these days, is the primary focus of Hixson's Lied Center efforts. She takes great interest in artists and performers who appear on the Lied stage, and she watches expenses, but she is determined to do what she can to make sure the university and those associated with the Lied realize she wants it to serve the entire area, not just Lawrence and KU. She wants youngsters and adults alike to have the opportunity to be exposed to fine music, dance, theater, opera, Broadway musicals and even ice shows.

Hixson, a native of Iowa, did not have many advantages as a youngster and went to work shortly after graduating from high school and completing a relatively short course in business practices.

She eventually became a trusted associate of Ernst Lied who had attended KU and earned an athletic letter as a member of the KU golf team. He transferred to Nebraska and, through astute business practices and hard work, became highly successful. Upon his death, Hixson became the sole trustee of Lied's foundation and has managed the trust in an excellent manner.

Financial gifts from the trust have gone to many universities for academic scholarships, buildings and athletic scholarships. Money has gone to youth organizations and to cities for projects such as zoos. She once built a high school for an area in which students were forced to travel many miles to the nearest school and has provided funding for many, many other projects.

KU has been extremely fortunate over the years to have benefited from the fiscal generosity of thousands of individuals.

The state has the responsibility of funding the basic needs of the Kansas Board of Regents schools, but it is private giving that makes the difference between an average state-aided university and one that excels.

It is people such as Hixson, the Hall family, Charles Oswald, the Ward family, the late Helen and Kenneth Spencer, Philip Anschutz, Polly and the late Dane Bales, Tensie Oldfather, Mr. and Mrs. Al Self, the Amini family, Sally and Forrest Hoglund, the Dana Anderson family, John and Linda Stewart, Ken Wagnon, the Dwight Sutherland family and many others who have helped make KU special.

This evening, however, the spotlight shines on Hixson for her generosity, her genuine interest in bringing the arts to the people in this part of the country and her vision for the future.

She has played a major role in enriching the lives of thousands of KU students, faculty and alumni and thousands more people across Kansas and the Midwest.

Just as the Lied Center is a jewel of the KU campus, Hixson is a true jewel as a friend of the university and the state.

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