Concert Hall Undergoes Renovation

The UALR Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall in the Fine Arts Building will undergo major renovations beginning May 16 following two generous private donations in conjunction with matching funds from the sale of University bonds.

The Stella Boyle Smith Trust has contributed $385,000 and Ruth Rebsamen Remmel, Mary Remmel Wohelb, and Dr. Raymond Remmel all of Little Rock contributed $100,000 total to the project which is expected to be completed sometime after Labor Day. The concert hall will be closed for performances during that time.

The renovation work is under the direction of the architecture and planning firm of Witsell Evans Rasco Architects/Planners

“The Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall is the premier performance venue on the UALR campus,” said UALR Chancellor Joel E. Anderson. “Nearly 100 regularly scheduled events occur in the concert hall annually by on-campus and off-campus groups.  With the help of generous supporters, we are very pleased to restore the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall to its original grandeur.”

The project includes installation of a new lighting system, seating, an over-stage truss system, a new indoor box office, carpeting for one of the galleries, a communication system for the hall, and renovation of the garden behind the concert hall.  The garden renovation will enhance the space by adding an expanded area for outdoor receptions.

“We are pleased to receive this generous gift from the Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Ruth Rebsamen Remmel, Mary Remmel Wohelb, and Dr. Raymond Remmel, that will allow us to modernize the facility to benefit not only our students, but also the many community groups that use the hall,” said Deborah Baldwin, dean of the UALR College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

Stella Boyle Smith was born in Farmington, Mo., into a large, musically inclined family, which moved to Arkansas when she was two.  In 1922, she moved to Little Rock with her first husband, Dandridge Perry Compton, who died in 1935.

Her second husband, George Smith, held various business interests and extensive farms in Woodruff and Arkansas counties, which allowed them to engage in philanthropy.  George Smith died in 1946.

A pianist, Smith’s love for music inspired her to start The Musical Group in 1923 in the living room of her home in Little Rock where she lived until her death at the age of 100 in 1994. Initially established as an educational tool for children, the group became the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in 1966. In 1968, she helped establish the Youth Orchestra.

In 1972, the symphony board of directors named her an honorary life member.  Smith established a trust fund for the symphony’s permanent endowment in 1985.

In 1988 she presented UALR a grand piano as well as an endowed trust of $500,000. Interest from the trust provides scholarships each year for music students studying string instruments, piano or voice.

UALR renamed its concert hall the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall as a tribute to her. That year, the University awarded Smith an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

The Remmel family has supported the University for generations, beginning in 1947.  Ruth Remmel’s father, Raymond Rebsamen, donated the 80-acre tract of land that the University’s main campus now occupies. The gift for the concert hall renovation is given by the Remmel family in honor of Haskell Dickinson, Mary Remmel’s nephew, and chair of UALR’s Comprehensive Campaign.

For more information about the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall renovation project, contact Laurie Ann Ross, Development Officer, at (501) 569-3460 or at laross@ualr.edu.

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