The University of Mary Washington amphitheater, a much-loved feature of the Fredericksburg campus, is preparing for its second act, thanks in large part to a $1 million challenge gift from Robert S. and Alice Andrews Jepson ’64.
“I can’t wait to get back to see all the things that have happened since I was there and to take time to walk through the amphitheater,” Alice Jepson said. “When President Hurley told us that students still love the amphitheater, we decided our money would be well invested in helping to restore this area of campus that holds so many special memories for alumni and students alike.”
Built of inexpensive materials in 1913 and more sturdily rebuilt in the 1920s, the amphitheater – in a grove of trees near Sunken Road – has been home to many Mary Washington traditions. The amphitheater hosted commencement ceremonies from the 1930s until 1958, Devil-Goat Day through the 1970s, May Day celebrations, and numerous concerts and theater productions. When the weather is nice, some professors still hold classes in the shady spot.
In 1997, the Board of Visitors allocated $40,000 − enough to make the area safe, but not to modernize it. In recent
years, the amphitheater has fallen into disrepair, but it remains a cherished part of campus. Consultants recently examined the site and concluded that the amphitheater must be restored now, or it could be lost forever.
“Students continue to enjoy the amphitheater, even in its current state, and they also care about preserving the history behind it,” said President Richard V. Hurley. “I am absolutely thrilled that Bob and Alice Jepson have agreed to help support this important restoration initiative.”
Experts estimate that it will cost $3 million to return the amphitheater to its 1952-1953 appearance, which includes repairing and reconstructing damaged and missing pieces. The restoration will include weather-resilient benches and chairs to accommodate about 600 people. The amphitheater will be accessible to those with disabilities.
In addition to the Jepsons, Elmer Morris Jr. ’50 and Marceline Weatherly Morris ’50 of King George, Va., and Laurie Mansell Reich ’79 and Henry E. Reich Jr. of Kittanning, Pa., have made significant gifts to support the amphitheater restoration.
WHAT ARE YOUR AMPHITHEATER MEMORIES?
As UMW prepares to renovate the amphitheater, we remember that in its heyday – and in its various states of disrepair – its Doric columns and tiers of seats hosted official ceremonies and celebrations, but it also provided a serene setting for sweethearts and scholars to slip away to quiet and solitude. The amphitheater also captured the hearts of generations of Mary Washington students. We at UMW Magazine want to know your story: What makes the amphitheater precious to you?
Please comment below with memories and stories and email photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.