Representatives of media outlets from across the region joined PSU officials on the main stage of the new center for the arts in June to hear President Steve Scott announce that the facility, to be completed this fall, has a name.

The center will be known as the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, in honor of lead donor Gene Bicknell, his wife, Rita, and their family.

Scott said that when Bicknell made his initial gift, he asked to remain anonymous.

The main stage was the perfect place for President Steve Scott to announce that the university’s new center for the arts would be named in honor of the Bicknell family.

The main stage was the perfect place for President Steve Scott to announce that the university’s new center for the arts would be named in honor of the Bicknell family.

“Until today, this donor has wished to remain anonymous in order to allow the focus of our efforts to remain where they should be, on this facility,” Scott said. “This fact speaks volumes about the character of the donor and of the family.”

The president praised Bicknell not only for his generosity, but also for his vision for a decades-old project that had failed to move beyond hopes and dreams.

“This project had been languishing on the drawing boards for nearly 30 years before Gene stepped forward in July of 2008 to become the lead donor,” Scott said. “His transformational gift gave life to this project and inspired others to join us. Gene has been an integral part of this project from the very beginning.

He has pushed us to achieve more than we thought was possible.”

Scott said Bicknell’s commitment to the facility was rooted in his devotion to the community.

“For Gene, this project has never been about recognition,” Scott said. “It’s about academics. It’s about community. It’s about the future of our region.”

Rita and Gene Bicknell

Rita and Gene Bicknell

In the months and years following Bicknell’s initial gift, Scott said, others stepped forward to support the project. To date, nearly 600 donors have given to the center with many more expected to join them. Scott singled out PSU students for particular praise for voting to commit $7 million to the project and the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation for investing $5 million in honor of PSU graduate H. Lee Scott.

Bicknell has been a longtime supporter of Pittsburg State University. He was one of the founders of the PSU Foundation and served as its president. He chaired the Kansas Technology Center fund drive and PSU’s first capital campaign. •