Both the physical building and the name of Abilene Christian University’s Cullen Auditorium will undergo renovation this fall with the facility emerging in the summer of 2022 as the Pat Boone Theatre, an upgraded performance venue honoring an iconic recording artist with a long history of ACU connections.
In his singing career, Boone sold more than 45 million records in the genres of R&B, pop, rock and gospel, including six No. 1, 18 Top 10 and more than 25 Top 20 singles. He also recorded the first million-selling album of hymns, starred in 12 Hollywood films and was inducted to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Elvis Presley opened for him at a concert in Ohio before both their careers skyrocketed. Boone is also the father of Grammy Award-winning recording artist Debby Boone.
Perhaps less well-known is that he recorded My God and I, a gospel album, with ACU’s A Cappella Chorus in 1961, served (accompanied by his family) as guest host of Sing Song when Moody Coliseum opened in 1968, and is the uncle of Grant Boone, the sports broadcasting voice of the Wildcats. Pat, who grew up in Churches of Christ with which ACU is historically affiliated, also led singing for a packed house at a youth rally in Moody in 1968.
The 101,272-square-foot Don H. Morris Center currently houses studios, lecture halls, media labs, an art gallery, and Cullen, an 815-seat multipurpose auditorium originally named in honor of Roy and Lillian Cullen. The facility was designed as a combination classroom-concert venue for campus and community events.
As a primary concert venue for Department of Music performing organizations, the Cullen stage has hosted ACU’s A Cappella Chorus, University Chorale, Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, Civic Orchestra of Abilene, Jazz Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble and more. For more than 25 years it has been the home of Freshman Follies and annual musical productions of the International Students Association.
The $9.5 million renovation, which is being made possible through gifts from numerous individuals and a naming gift from an anonymous donor, will transform Cullen into an on-campus performance theatre.
- A new, north-facing entrance and lobby will make Pat Boone Theatre more visible and accessible to the community.
- Digitally controlled, state-of-the-art lighting, sound and acoustical clouds will be installed.
- Structural improvements will accommodate installation of sets.
- The 41-year-old heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) will be replaced by a quiet system required for performance venues.
- Expansion on the north end will provide needed dressing rooms and a green room.
- Seating will be re-configured to enhance accessibility.
A matching grant of $1 million from the Mabee Foundation of Midland spurred on fundraising, and generous donors have named the stage in honor of an ACU musical and theatre legend, the late Jeannette (Scruggs ’50) Lipford.
“The Pat Boone Theatre will be a tremendous enhancement to the performing arts at ACU, providing an acoustically redesigned hall that showcases our choirs, bands and orchestra,” said Dr. Greg Straughn, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The state-of-the-art theatrical equipment will support a variety of full-scale productions, allowing us to bring Homecoming Musical productions back to campus for the first time in almost 50 years.”
— Wendy Kilmer
July 28, 2021