A $20 million gift from an Alabama family has pushed the University of Alabama's Rising Tide capital campaign over the $1 billion mark and will finance the construction of a new performing arts center for the Department of Theatre and Dance.

The gift and its impact were announced and celebrated during a program in the Marion Gallaway Theatre in Rowand-Johnson Hall Friday morning.

The donation is the largest charitable gift for an academic facility in UA’s history and came from the family of Mark Smith, the cofounder of the Huntsville-based telecommunications company ADTRAN.

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Mark Smith's son, Clay Smith, attended the ceremony Friday and said his father, who died in 2007, always emphasized the importance of the arts to his family.

"Our family's passion for the arts goes back many generations," Clay Smith said. "Music and the arts have impacted our family tremendously. They defined my father, and they helped define me. To give back to the community in this way while honoring my dad's memory is incredibly rewarding."

The $20 million donation will fund the construction of the Smith Family Center for the Performing Arts, a new state-of-the-art home for the department of theatre and dance that will include four performance theatres for students and faculty to learn, rehearse and perform inside.

The new center will connect to the Bryce Main, the former home of the historic mental health hospital that was built before the start of the Civil War. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2026.

(University of Alabama)
(University of Alabama)

"We are humbled and grateful for the generosity of the Smiths," said Joseph Messina, the dean of UA's College of Arts and Sciences. "This gift will enable us to continue to offer a high-caliber performing arts education and showcase our talented students and faculty through a world-class facility."

Clay Smith said in a statement that the family is thrilled to help fund the future of the department, and especially at a location as significant as Bryce Main.

"We knew, just looking at the Bryce property and the University's plans for it, that we had to be involved collectively as a family," Clay Smith said. "It's a venue that will foster artistic expression for students and facilitate the skills they need to launch careers in the performing arts."

"If you look at the historical relevance of Bryce Main, it is one of the most historically significant institutions in the state. To have a performing arts center adjacent to it is going to be spectacular. It's a diamond in the rough -- when the diamond gets cut and cultivated and cleaned, it's going to sparkle and be really special not only for the University but also for the surrounding community. As a family, we're excited and pleased that we can help be a part of this magnificent project."

The 10-year Rising Tide capital campaign aims to raise $1.5 billion for projects all around the University and to create 1,000 new scholarships and 75 faculty endowments.

After five years of fundraising, more than 133,000 donors have given over $1,020,000,000 to the campaign.

"We are grateful to the Smiths for what is not only an incredible legacy for their family but a lasting inheritance for our students, community and generations to come, UA President Stuart Bell said. "This stunning new facility will further transform our campus, allow us to showcase our students' exceptional talents and make UA a beacon for the performing arts."

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