Robert L. Annis Playhouse opens


Westminster Choir College of Rider University marked two important milestones on Oct. 16: The renovated Playhouse was dedicated and named the Robert L. Annis Playhouse and the final Rider University Sesquicentennial Medal of Excellence was awarded to Judith McCartin Scheide.

The Playhouse, which was originally used to store Army surplus, moved to its current space after World War II and for decades has been the site of countless choral rehearsals, performances and student activities. The Westminster Symphonic Choir has held rehearsals with names like Leonard Bernstein, Riccardo Muti, and Kurt Masur.

The renovation includes a 2,950-square-foot addition to the playhouse with an expanded stage and backstage, two new dressing rooms, two restrooms, storage space and improvements to make the building handicapped-accessible.  

The project was made possible by foundation grants, proceeds from a benefit concert honoring William H. Scheide's 100th birthday and gifts that were made in honor of Annis.

"It's really fitting that the man who has been our best fundraising dean in our history is now the recipient of this naming opportunity because of the many donors who have made gifts in his honor," said Rider University Vice President for Advancement Jonathan Meer at the dedication ceremony.

Westminster's new dean, Matthew Shaftel said, "The Playhouse is in many ways a microcosm of Bob’s legacy. By building partnerships with so many of you, he was able to create a new future for this Quonset hut—the only active Quonset hut on the professional music circuit, I imagine. But, thanks to all of you and to Bob, the legacy of this hut stands as tall and as wide as any performing arts hall in the world!"

In celebration of Rider University’s Sesquicentennial anniversary, a Medal of Excellence was established to recognize members of the Rider family for their exemplary achievements that have brought honor to the University.

Judith McCartin Scheide, who is a graduate of Rider’s graduate-level teacher certification program, was honored for her commitment to education and for her service to the Princeton –area community.

“As president of the Scheide Fund, working closely with her husband, William H. Scheide, until his death last year, Judy is credited with expanding the reach and diversifying the scope of the Princeton-based philanthropy known for touching the lives of people from all walks of life throughout the world,” said Rider University President Gregory G. Dell’Omo in presenting the award.

The evening, which was attended by more than 230 Westminster alumni and friends, included performances by Westminster Kantorei, conducted by Amanda Quist, and Westminster students Thomas Lynch and Abigail Kempson, accompanied by William Hobbs.