The University of Mary Washington recognized two long-time donors on Saturday, June 4, at a groundbreaking ceremony for the century-old amphitheatre on the Fredericksburg campus. The outdoor facility, slated for renovation, has been renamed the Heslep Amphitheatre, in honor of 1956 alumna Josephine McPherson Heslep and her husband, Donald, of Richmond.
The Hesleps, who attended the ceremony with their family, have generously supported University initiatives, including a significant endowment for the UMW Philharmonic, according to Torre Meringolo, vice president for Advancement and University Relations. The couple’s latest gift of $1.25 million helped push contributions toward the $3 million fundraising goal, said Meringolo.
Nearly 90 donors have contributed approximately $2.6 million toward the restoration. Among the other lead donors are Elmer Morris Jr. ’50 and Marceline Weatherly Morris ’50 of King George, Va., and Alice Andrews Jepson ’64 and her husband, Robert S. Jr., of Savannah, Ga. The amphitheatre renovation is funded through private donations.
Meringolo also announced a new challenge gift recently received from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation. If UMW secures new gifts totaling $125,000 for the amphitheatre, the Foundation will match with its own contribution of $125,000. Gifts to the amphitheatre restoration may be made at umw.edu/onlinegiving.
Originally constructed in 1913 and officially dedicated in 1923, the amphitheatre
– located in a grove of trees near Sunken Road – has been home to many UMW traditions at various points in its history. The amphitheatre hosted commencement ceremonies from the 1930s until 1958, and Mary Washington’s unique Devil-Goat Day through the 1970s, in addition to May Day celebrations, numerous concerts and theater productions. In recent years, the amphitheatre has fallen into disrepair, yet it remains a cherished part of campus.
The restoration will return the amphitheatre to its 1950s appearance by repairing and reconstructing damaged and missing pieces. It will provide seating for approximately 600 people while incorporating accommodations for ADA accessibility.
Glavé & Holmes Architecture of Richmond has developed the restoration design. A construction date has not been set. Once construction begins, the renovation should be completed within nine months.