River Campus project receives $1 million gift

Saturday, October 20, 2001

Sikeston businessman Donald C. Bedell donated over $1 million to Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus arts school project on Friday.

Neither school officials nor Bedell would disclose the exact amount.

University President Dr. Ken Dobbins said the donation is the largest single cash gift in the 18-year history of the school's fund-raising foundation and the largest ever made for a new facility at the school.

Delighted school officials publicly announced the donation at the university foundation's Copper Dome dinner on Friday night. Earlier in the day, the university's board of regents named the planned River Campus performance hall in Bedell's honor.

Bedell, 60, is the father of Brad Bedell, a member of the board of regents. Brad Bedell wasn't at the regents meeting because he was out of town on business.

Donald C. Bedell is chairman of the board of Health Facilities Management Corp., a firm he founded in 1984. The company operates nursing homes in Missouri, Arkansas, Arizona and Illinois.

Bedell said he has long had an interest in the arts. He received a music award when he graduated from high school. He played in a band.

"We played rock 'n' roll back in the late '50s and early '60s," he said.

Bedell said the River Campus could boost economic development in Southeast Missouri because businesses want to locate where there are opportunities for plays, concerts and other cultural activities.

"I think it is a great thing for the economy of Southeast Missouri," he said.

Flattering gesture

Bedell said he was flattered the university will name the performance hall after him. "I had no earthly idea that anything like that would occur," he said.

Don Dickerson, president of the board of regents, said the donation gives a big boost to a project that has suffered through some legal setbacks.

Cape Girardeau businessman Jim Drury has challenged the validity of a 1998 tax approved by city voters to help fund the River Campus project. The case is pending before the Missouri Supreme Court.

The donation makes it easier to secure further private dollars for the project and could be a selling point to Cape Girardeau voters if the city has to hold another election on the tax issue, Dickerson said.

"On the most basic level we are pleased because the gift clearly indicates that the River Campus project is alive and well," said Dickerson.

"I think what it shows is we are determined to do the project," he said.

The state has already agreed to fund nearly half of the cost of the $36 million project to turn a former Catholic seminary overlooking the Mississippi River into a visual and performing arts school.

The city is expected to provide nearly $9 million for the development. The university foundation is seeking to raise $10 million. Thanks to Bedell's gift and other private donations, more than half of that goal has been met, Dickerson said.

'The crown jewel'

Dobbins said the planned performance hall will be "the crown jewel" of the River Campus. No date has been set for start of construction. School officials said that depends on when all the funding is secured.

The university president said the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall will allow the city and university to develop a first-rate cultural arts program which could include concerts by nationally known symphony orchestras, professional ballets and touring Broadway shows.

As part of the university's commitment to the River Campus project, the regents on Friday approved the creation of the theater and dance department. The department, along with the existing departments of music and art, will be housed on the new arts campus once it is built.

The regents also established a new department of communications involving the speech communication and mass communication programs.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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