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Wayne State Celebrates Funding of Jeanne Gardner Black and Gold Endowment

Published Monday, May 21st, 2018

Kirk Gardner, Leslie Bebee, and David Gardner
Kirk Gardner, Leslie Bebee, and David Gardner were recognized by the Wayne State Foundation on April 3 in honor of their mother, Jeanne Gardner.

A dinner and program was held April 3 honoring the Gardner family. The event also featured a performance by Catapult, a group famous as a finalist on NBC’s America’s Got Talent and revered worldwide.

Wayne State President Marysz Rames and the Wayne State Foundation celebrated completion of the fund-raising for the Jeanne Gardner Black & Gold Performing Arts Endowment with a dinner and program honoring the Gardner family on April 3 at the college. The Jeanne Gardner Black & Gold Performing Arts Endowment, which has reached $500,000, is named so because Gardner was a champion of the arts. The endowment was funded by a range of generous donors who wanted to recognize the legacy Gardner left with Wayne State and Northeast Nebraska. 

The endowment secures funding in perpetuity for annual shows that include full-scale opera and theatre productions, dance performances, orchestras, chamber music and award-winning actors. The April 3 event featured a performance by Catapult, a group famous as a finalist on NBC’s America’s Got Talent and revered worldwide. Catapult is a theatrical art form combining dance, storytelling and sculpture.

“I cannot overstate the importance of Jeanne’s support of Wayne State College,” said Dr. Marysz Rames, president of Wayne State. “She and the Gardner Foundation have left a beautiful mark on so many aspects of the college. Naming this endowment in honor of Jeanne is a wonderful tribute to her generosity and love for the performing arts.”

Jeanne Gardner, class of 1967, was a dear friend, benefactor and alumna of Wayne State who lived her life well with a commitment to family, community and church. Jeanne and her late husband, Dan, founded the Gardner Foundation in Wakefield, Neb., and through their vision have made transformational contributions to the college. Dan and Jeanne's children, Leslie Bebee, Kirk Gardner, and David Gardner, are now the trustees of the Gardner Foundation and continue to support the college as their parents envisioned.

“Mom loved the original Black and Gold series before it ended due to funding issues,” said Leslie Bebee of Wakefield. “She took my children to the Chinese Acrobats many years ago and they still talk about the show. She would be so happy to see the Black and Gold series revived and we are honored having it named after her. Thank you to everyone who contributed to make the Black and Gold series a reality again.” 

After Gardner’s passing on Sept. 17, 2014, the Wayne State Foundation Board of Trustees launched a fund-raising effort to establish the $500,000 endowment. The Black & Gold Series at Wayne State was a perfect match with one of Gardner's passions because she was involved in theater at many levels. This endowment also serves as a way to bring back live professional performances to Ramsey Theatre on the campus of Wayne State College. For more than 50 years, the Wayne State College Black and Gold Performing Arts Series presented cultural programming to serve the region as part of the mission of the college. 

“My mother was a great lover of the arts,” said David Gardner. “She would be very pleased and honored to see the continued support of the Black and Gold Series.”  

“Not only has the Gardner Foundation transformed Wayne State College, the entire Northeast Nebraska region has benefited from their generous philanthropy and leadership through the years,” said Kevin Armstrong, CEO of the Wayne State Foundation. “I am very proud of how our alumni, friends, campus, and community rallied together to honor Mrs. Gardner’s legacy by funding the Jeanne Gardner Black and Gold Performing Arts Endowment.”