George Kaiser Family Foundation commits $40 million to TU

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lorton Performance Center exteriorA multi-year commitment of $40.2 million from the George Kaiser Family Foundation will accelerate several strategic initiatives at The University of Tulsa. The commitment includes an innovative bridge loan that will allow TU to begin construction of its new performance center this fall.

The George Kaiser Family Foundation’s financial commitment strengthens a wide range of TU’s most important initiatives, including new campus facilities, faculty resources, academic programs, undergraduate research, community outreach, and neighborhood beautification.

Lorton Performance Center auditoriumThe largest portion of the financial support comes in the form of a low-interest loan to provide crucial bridge funding for constructing the Roxana Rozsa and Robert Eugene Lorton Performance Center. The university has substantially completed fundraising for the center, but many of those gifts will be paid over the coming years.

The $24 million in bridge funding from the Kaiser Foundation will cover construction costs during the pledge fulfillment period. The low-interest loan is expected to provide TU with about $2.7 million in interest savings when compared to current bond market prices. TU will begin reimbursing the foundation in 2011.

“The University of Tulsa has benefitted many times and in many ways from the generosity of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, but this gift will hold a special place in the Kaiser legacy,” said TU President Steadman Upham. “It fast-tracks construction of the largest, most ambitious facility in TU history, and it does so with a creative response to the snarled bond markets that are stalling so many other organizations. By moving forward now, we can not only open the center to the community sooner, but we also can pay today’s construction costs instead of tomorrow’s. It is fitting that this gift combines George Kaiser’s philanthropic drive and his entrepreneurial outlook.”

In addition to the bridge funding, the Kaiser Foundation has also committed a $13.5 million gift for select university programs and priorities, including: 

  • The National Energy Policy Institute, established at TU earlier this spring;
  • A Student Volunteer Center on campus; 
  • Improvements on campus and in the Kendall-Whittier neighborhood; 
  • Faculty support for the College of Law; 
  • The Immigrant Rights Project at the College of Law; 
  • The newly re-established local news bureau at KWGS, FM 89.5; 
  • A new non-profit management program in the Collins College of Business; 
  • And general support for the Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge, Film Studies program, and the James Joyce Quarterly.

The foundation also has provided $4 million for operations and endowed positions at Gilcrease Museum, which is operated by TU under a management agreement with the City of Tulsa.

Ken Levit, executive director for the George Kaiser Family Foundation, said the organization was pleased to support TU’s many strategic initiatives, including the Lorton Performance Center.

“TU has clearly demonstrated that it stands among the nation’s top universities and has been a powerful catalyst for community improvement and engagement,” Levit said. “Our investment in TU reflects our belief in the power of education to improve lives, and also demonstrates our confidence in our city’s namesake university.”

Levit noted the important role that the Lorton Performance Center will serve in promoting the performing arts not only for the university, but also for Tulsa and the neighborhoods surrounding campus.

The Lorton Performance Center will be located on TU’s campus on Gary Place between 5th Place and 7th Street. The university currently is preparing the site, which includes placing utilities, rerouting Gary Place to accommodate the building’s footprint, and landscaping along Harvard Avenue. Construction on the $34 million facility is expected to begin in August and take approximately two years.

Roxana and Robert E. Lorton have pledged the lead gift for the Lorton Performance Center, which will carry their name to honor their longtime leadership at TU. Both serve on TU’s Board of Trustees, and their leadership has been instrumental supporting student scholarships, endowed chairs, campus construction and other University initiatives.

The 77,000-square-foot Lorton Performance Center will be a cornerstone of campus and community activities for generations to come, serving as TU’s showcase for the musical and performing arts. When completed, the building also will serve as the new home for the School of Music and the Department of Film Studies. The facility also will be made available to other performing arts groups in the Tulsa area.

The center will feature: 

  • 700-seat concert theatre with balcony;
  • Full performance stage with ballet floor, scenery fly and trap room; a hydraulic orchestra pit, theatrical lighting and sound booths; 
  • A 6,000 sq. ft. grand hall dually designed for art display and for receptions and seated dinners of up to 300; 
  • Faculty offices to accommodate up to two grand pianos each; 
  • Specialized rehearsal and practice rooms that will accommodate all music groups; 
  • Classrooms, teaching studios and faculty offices; 
  • Electronic piano lab; 
  • Film production suite with post-production editing and scoring capabilities; 
  • Two recital halls, including one with fixed seating for 100 and another with flexible seating to accommodate groups of various sizes; 
  • Dressing suite complete with a green room and VIP lounge, shower and laundry facilities; 
  • And outdoor colonnade with two-story Gothic arches overlooking a front lawn facing Harvard Avenue.

In addition to the Lortons and the George Kaiser Family Foundation, major commitments for the performance center have come from the Judith and Jean Pape Adams Foundation; Ellen and Stephen Adelson; Caroline and Tom Benediktson; Pat and Arnold Brown; John and Maryann Bumgarner; the J.A. and Leta Chapman Trusts; Kathie and John Coyle; Ann Graves; the Pearl and Julia Harmon Foundation; Miriam Spindler-Lynch/Hyechka Club; Stephen and Shelley Jackson; the estate of Nan Jankowsky; Jake Jorishie; Nancy and Peter Meinig; Steadman and Peggy Upham; and faculty members of the Henry Kendall College of Arts and Sciences.

Contact:
David Hamby
918-631-2309
david-hamby@utulsa.edu