A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the Marion Buckelew Cullen Center on Oct. 22, 2014, heralding the opening of the brand new building that contains a performance and rehearsal hall, classrooms and more. Honoring the philanthropist who made a $5 million bequest to Westminster Choir College, the Cullen Center is the first new building to be constructed on Westminster's campus in 39 years.
The event also included the unveiling of a portrait of Marion Buckelew Cullen by artist John Ennis of Yardley, Pa., a performance by the Westminster Symphonic Choir and the presentation of Rider University 150th medals to Elsie Hilliard Hillman, Mickey Lazenby Gast and Herbert Mayo.
Before the ribbon cutting, President Mordechai Rozanski welcomed guests, thanked donors and recognized the hard work of many people who helped make the Cullen Center a reality. He also announced that the renovation of the Playhouse, which has nearly reached it fundraising goals, will begin soon and, once completed, be renamed the Robert L. Annis Playhouse after Westminster Choir College's dean and director, who will retire in December.
Following the portrait unveiling and the ribbon cutting, the three medals were awarded.
Recipient Elsie Hilliard Hillman has helped lay the foundation for the success that Westminster enjoys today. A member of the Board of Trustees of Westminster Choir College and of Rider University, she has been an enthusiastic advocate for the Choir College and its legacy with her extended family, and she has introduced many new friends to Westminster over the years. With her husband, Henry, she has contributed significant financial resources that have enabled talented students to receive a Westminster education and go on to serve the world through music.
Herbert “Buddy” Mayo, who also received a medal, began his teaching career as a professor at Rider in 1969, where he stayed until 1980. For the past 30 years, he has taught finance at The College of New Jersey, where he also served as director of accreditation. Mayo established the Westminster College of the Arts Performance Endowment, which benefits both opera and musical theatre productions on the Princeton and Lawrenceville campuses. He also endowed a scholarship in honor of his mother, Mildred Mayo, which benefits students studying voice performance, and a scholarship for piano accompanying in honor of his aunt, Beatrice B. Pearman. Additionally, Mayo has provided significant support to capital initiatives on both campuses, as well as serving on the boards of the Opera Festival of New Jersey and Opera New Jersey, with whom many Westminster students and alumni have performed.
The third medal recipient, Ernestine (Mickey) Lazenby Gast, has enjoyed a successful career in business while also singing in several professional choirs in the Philadelphia area. A 1968 graduate of the Choir College where she was a member of the Westminster Choir, Gast has generously committed time and talent to her beloved alma mater. She has served on the Westminster Choir College Alumni Council and the Dean’s Advisory Council and is currently serving her sixth term the Rider University Board of Trustees. She has been Secretary of the Board, and she has chaired the Student Affairs and Human Resources Committees. Currently vice chair of the Board and co-chair of Rider’s Sesquicentennial Executive Committee, Gast serves on the Student Affairs, Human Resources, Senior Compensation and Executive committees. She was also co-chair of the Campaign Committee that secured the funds for the Marion Buckelew Cullen Center.
Throughout 2014-2015 year, Rider will be awarding medals to individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to the University. Honorees include alumni, board members, faculty, staff, friends and organizations. Previous recipients include the Lawrenceville campus Student Government Association, Dr. Walter A. Brower '48 and The Times of Trenton. More medals will be presented at an array of 150th events throughout the year.
The Cullen Center is located beside The Playhouse, creating a new quadrangle and courtyard that will be a primary outdoor venue for Westminster student and alumni events. Its design was inspired by the Georgian style of the four original buildings surrounding the Morgan Quadrangle. Funds from the State of New Jersey's “Building Our Future” bond program were central to the completion of the $8.5 million project, as well as pledges, gifts and grants from various sources.
President Rozanski greets visitors The Cullen Center is a sustainable learning environment that will receive LEED, (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification. Some of the LEED components include Green Power, low emitting materials, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood, recycled materials, water use reduction, stormwater management and construction activity that focused on pollution prevention.
The Cullen Center contains the Hillman Performance Hall, a 3,000-square-foot performance and rehearsal hall, named in recognition of the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, which provided a $3 million grant to support the project. In addition to the performance/rehearsal hall, the Cullen Center includes a large lobby, a green room and three flexibly configured classrooms that will accommodate a wide range of academic and choral uses. The new building includes an integrated connection to The Playhouse that provides improved audience access and amenities including a ticket booth and handicap-accessible restrooms.
Because of limited space, the ribbon cutting was open only to members of the Westminster Choir College community, invited guests and the media.on will take place on Sunday, Oct. 26, from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
Learn more about the Marion Buckelew Cullen Center at www.rider.edu/cullen.