October 1, 2023

UMW Receives $1.25 Million Campaign Gift for Amphitheater

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Josephine McPherson Heslep ’56 and Donald B. Heslep

A $1.25 million pledge from an alumna and her husband has moved the University closer to the $3-million fundraising goal to restore its historic amphitheater.

The pledge, made by Josephine McPherson Heslep ’56 and her husband, Donald, of Richmond, Va., helps provide a total of $2.5 million toward the only capital project in the Mary Washington First Campaign. The amount raised includes a $1 million pledge from Robert and Alice Andrews Jepson ’64 of Savannah, Ga., and more than $250,000 in gifts and pledges from other alumni and friends.

“We still need to raise another half a million for the project,” says UMW President Richard V. Hurley, “but with the tremendous amount of nostalgia and pride our alumni feel for the amphitheater, we’re confident we will reach the final goal soon.”

For more than a century, the open-air amphitheater has been an integral part of the Mary Washington experience. Located in the grove behind Lee and Trinkle halls, it was the venue of choice for commencements, May Day celebrations, plays, concerts and even weddings. With age and recent storm damage, however, the site has been declared a safety hazard.

“I remember the amphitheater from my time as a student,” says Josephine Heslep. “We’re happy to offer our help so that once again it will be a great gathering place and performance venue.”

In past years, the Hesleps have provided significant support to the UMW Philharmonic. They also are members of the UMW President’s Council, Washington Society and Heritage Society.

When complete, the $3-million restoration will return the amphitheater to its 1952-1953 appearance by repairing and reconstructing damaged and missing pieces, and returning the surrounding woodlands to pristine condition. It also will provide seating for approximately 600 people on weather-resilient benches and chairs.

The amphitheater is one of seven priorities of the $50-million Mary Washington First Campaign. The comprehensive fundraising initiative began July 1, 2011, went public April 26, 2014, and is expected to conclude June 30, 2016. For more information, go to marywashingtonfirst.umw.edu or call 540-654-1024.