Amphitheatre, wellness center renamed for alumni

By by Jennifer Page Wall April 25, 2016

William & Mary's Board of Visitors last week approved measures that rename the Lake Matoaka Amphitheatre and the Integrative Wellness Center in honor of alumni who are committed to providing an enriching and healthy environment for the entire Tribe community.

Effective immediately, the respective structures will be named the Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheatre at Lake Matoaka, in a fitting tribute to Martha Wren Briggs '55, and the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center, in recognition of Bee McLeod ’83, M.B.A. ’91 and Goody Tyler HON ’11.

"We are blessed with philanthropists who care deeply for alma mater," said William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. "It is a great privilege for us to honor Martha, Bee and Goody for their enduring impact on campus life and for bettering our community through their generosity."

The McLeod Tyler Wellness Center, scheduled to open in fall 2017, is named after McLeod and Tyler for their role in advancing the health and wellness of students on and off campus. They have both given significantly to the For the Bold campaign, including a$1.5 million gift toward the construction and interior space of the wellness center, as well as funding for new programs that will be offered within it. They are also avid supporters of William & Mary's campus recreation programs and facilities, which McLeod and Tyler believe are critical for students to pursue and maintain healthier minds and lifestyles.

"It will be thrilling to see the work progress on the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center over the next year. There is much to celebrate, including the fact that all of the health- and wellness-based programming for students will soon be housed for the first time under one roof," said Matthew T. Lambert '99, vice president of university advancement. "We are very thankful to Bee and Goody for their vision in helping the university build one of the best campus wellness centers in the nation."

The McLeod Tyler Wellness Center will be a central place on campus for people to restore, refresh and renew, said Kelly Crace, associate vice president for health and wellness. Its mission is to help develop active, mature consumers of health care and to create a strong foundation for students’ lifelong wellbeing. It will include a student health center, counseling center, health promotion activities, recreational and wellness programs and a Center for Mindfulness and Authentic Excellence.

“We all want every William & Mary student to flourish here,” said Ginger Ambler ’88, Ph.D. ’06, vice president for student affairs. “There are no better people to be honored with this building than Bee and Goody — they are truly committed to helping the Tribe set a new standard for student wellness."

While the wellness center will create a strong foundation for student health, the Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheatre at Lake Matoaka will remain an important bedrock for the arts and cultural life on campus. This is possible, in large part, to Martha Briggs' commitment to restoring the amphitheatre, which has served as an outdoor entertainment facility on campus since 1946. 

"Martha continues to play an instrumental role in ensuring that William & Mary stays at the forefront of the arts and provides extraordinary cultural offerings for generations of students and the broader campus community," said Aaron De Groft '88, director of the Muscarelle Museum of Art. "We are in awe of her generosity."

Over the span of more than a decade, Martha Briggs has contributed to two university fundraising campaigns, including the For the Bold campaign, to help meet the financial needs and upkeep of the amphitheatre. Martha Briggs’ gifts, in particular, have provided the necessary funds to restore the stage, dressing rooms, sound and lighting systems, seats and entrance area, as well as ensuring the facility is accessible to those with disabilities. 

The amphitheatre has been a popular venue featuring many musical performances, shows, wedding ceremonies and other special events for more than 70 years. The Common Glory, a widely-attended colonial-era drama, was performed at the amphitheatre in the summers from the late 1940s through the 1970s —  alumna Glenn Close '74 was a common presence on stage during the latter years of this production. Just last year, major-label artists Bruce Hornsby and Canaan Smith played live concerts on its stage. 

"As a student, Martha grew fond of the amphitheatre. She often speaks of her time sitting on its walls, taking in many great performances," added Lambert. "She is one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the arts on campus and we are truly grateful."

A plaque in honor of Martha Briggs is currently on display at the newly named amphitheatre.  

"It truly takes a passion for impact to dedicate oneself to an extraordinary cause that can transform and improve the lives of so many," said Sue Hanna Gerdelman '76, campaign chair. ​"Martha, Bee and Goody have that passion that inspires us all to take action that not only betters our beloved institution but also society as a whole. For that, we are thankful."