Wednesday, May 29th, 2024
Review Magazine


While The Ware Center is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s cultural impact over the last 10 years on downtown Lancaster and Millersville University cannot be overlooked.



Fast forward to 2020 and the 10th anniversary of Millersville University’s Ware Center, a showcase of culture and talent from near and far, with events, sometimes multiple events, happening most days of the year in one of the five performing spaces. During a typical year, The Ware Center holds more than 250 events. Since its opening, The Ware Center has welcomed nearly 500,000 attendees.

It was the vision of former Vice President of Advancement, Jerry Eckert, and former Vice President of Administration and Finance, Roger Bruszewski, who brought the president at the time, Dr. Francine G. McNairy, in on their idea.

“Like all good deals, it started over breakfast at a diner,” says Eckert, smiling. “It was 2008 and I was meeting with Phil Calhoun, executive director of the Ferree Foundation (the family foundation of Paul and Judy Ware). We discussed that the present occupant of the building, the Pennsylvania Academy of Music (PAM), was having financial difficulties and Phil asked if Millersville would be interested in buying or leasing 42 N. Prince St. I, of course, said no way, given the University’s serious economic concerns at this time. However, the more I thought about it, I discussed with Dr. McNairy, who did give the green light during a difficult economic time. She deserves a lot of credit.”

McNairy, who was president at Millersville from 2003-2013, was a champion for community and civic engagement. “Jerry came to my office and said ‘Madam President, I need you to say yes to exploring a potential and very exciting direction. We have the opportunity to buy or lease 42 N. Prince St.,’” recalls McNairy. “The building offered much more than just classrooms; it was a win-win with the performing arts possibilities. We had been talking for some time about our campus being four miles from Lancaster city, a distance that seemed enormous to some. A building in the city was our answer. And today—little girls in tutus, the Imani Edu-Tainers—it’s beyond my wildest dreams.”

Putting Together the Financing
Vice President Bruszewski led negotiations for two years on this project and was instrumental in putting together the financial plan. On March 17, 2010, Millersville’s Council of Trustees (COT) voted to proceed to purchase the building from the owner, Union National Community Bank.

Current COT Chairman, Michael Warfel, who was also part of the COT in 2010, says, “We approved the plans and $13.5 million purchase because it allowed the University a broad-based expansion of its visual and performing arts into the greater community. And, as we’ve seen, it certainly helped to enhance the economic vitality of the city of Lancaster and the region.”

Bruszewski says all the funds came from the state, thanks to help from local senators and Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). “The $13.5 million was in the capital construction fund. An additional $1 million for furniture and equipment came from PASSHE after I talked with the vice chancellor and chancellor,” he explains. While the sale was being finalized, the University leased the building, so the undergraduate and graduate classes that had been offered at Liberty Place were moved to The Ware Center.

On September 12, 2011, the University announced the dedication and naming of The Ware Center at Millersville University Lancaster, in honor of Paul W. and Judy S. Ware. During the dedication McNairy says, “This is a fitting tribute when you reflect upon Paul’s and Judy’s involvement and philanthropic commitments to Lancaster community organizations and to higher education.”

“The University made a good decision to recognize all of the donors by keeping the names on rooms and areas even though they were originally involved with a different institution,” explains Paul Ware. “It created a tremendous amount of goodwill.”

Harvey Owen, former director of the Ware Center.
Harvey Owen,
former director of
the Ware Center.

In addition to the words “The Ware Center,” the building also has the words “creativity, innovation and engagement” on the exterior.

“Given the building’s location, and to be part of Lancaster city’s ongoing revitalization, it was important for the University to maintain the emphasis on the arts with open access to the greater community. Additionally, profit, nonprofit and government organizations were encouraged to use the building for meetings and events. It also made sense given the Wares’ involvement and commitment to the arts and higher education to name the building in their honor,” says Eckert.

Paul and Judy Ware continue to be supportive partners of the Millersville University Visual and Performing Arts seasons.

“We were thrilled when Millersville and the Commonwealth purchased the building 10 years ago,” says Paul Ware. “It’s a purebred building, designed for the arts and it was sweet music to our ears when we heard about the purchase. With the wonderful programming that happens inside, it’s been uphill ever since.”

“When I come out of Central Market and see The Ware Center, it’s just beautiful. It’s a signature building in Lancaster,” says Judy Ware.

An important step in The Ware Center’s progress was to hire a program director—enter stage left, Harvey Owen. “I was retired but saw the ad for a person to run the Ware Center in the newspaper. I wrote a business plan, they liked it, and Roger said, ‘here’s the deal—we’ll give you five years to get this into the black,’ but we did it in nine months! This is the only job I had where I couldn’t wait to get to work,” says Owen, “even though it was 12-hour days, seven days a week.”

“Our goal was to light up downtown,” Owen continues. “I’m an entrepreneur, but I worked hard to join with the professors to involve our students and give them a lot of interaction, but also increase the presence of Millersville University into the downtown. At the same time it helped us, it also helped downtown Lancaster.”

Owen, with Bruszewski’s help, was responsible for hiring national award-winning playwright Barry Kornhauser as the assistant director of campus & community engagement. Kornhauser’s Theatre for Young Audiences play, “Corduroy,” won the American Alliance for Theatre & Education (AATE) 2019 Distinguished Play Award, one of three AATE awards he has received. “Everybody, I want you to know, The Ware Center is for you,” says Kornhauser. “This brings us all together. Our goal is to transform lives through the arts. We work with those with cognitive and sensory issues, from our performances for the blind to closed captioning for the deaf to sensory-friendly performances for those on the autism spectrum.”

Lauren Davis as Mother and Ileri Okikiolu as Lisa in “Corduroy” at the Ware Center. Photo by Dan Norman

“Harvey did a phenomenal job,” says Paul Ware. “Lancastrians enjoy a mixture of things and the community has embraced the offerings. Robin [Zaremski] had some big shoes to fill!”

Zaremski is the third director of Visual and Performing Arts Center for Millersville. She was named in 2017 after Laura Kendall, who took the reins from Owen, left.

“Over the last 10 years, The Ware Center has become Lancaster’s home for the cultural arts,” says Zaremski. “We offer hundreds of unique, creative and innovative opportunities in the way of live performances, guest speakers, educational workshops, conferences and special events, proudly reflecting the deep diversity of our students and community. We look forward to providing even more shared and rewarding experiences for many decades to come.”

Amy Banks, the arts communication manager for The Ware Center, has the unique position of working there as a full-time job, and as a performer. She has performed for three sold-out shows: “Amy Sings Aretha” (2015), “Happy 100th Birthday, Ella!” with the King Street Big Band (2017) and last season’s “How Glad I Am: Remembering Nancy Wilson” (2019).

“Honestly, the best/coolest/most unique event for me was my Aretha concert – “Amy Sings Aretha (A Motown Love Story),” says Banks, who talked about working and performing at The Ware Center. “I have the pleasure of working with our staff and interacting with our patrons from both the seats and the stage! I consider myself extremely blessed to have so much support from our community and my coworkers that I get to have the best of both worlds.”

Current president of Millersville, Dr. Daniel A. Wubah, has been a big supporter of The Ware Center and the performing arts, noting the international essence of many events which fulfill the cosmopolitan nature of Lancaster city.

“The Ware Center has positively impacted our students and campus community as well as the region,” says Wubah. “The arts are so important to a holistic education based on creativity, communication and collaboration. As the largest university in Lancaster County, we have a responsibility to our citizens, and our EPPIIC Values coincide with that responsibility, public mission and professionalism. The space provides a gateway to Millersville University, and we are pleased to share it with the local community.”

While The Ware Center is closed at present time due to COVID-19, it won’t be long before it will once again light up downtown Lancaster with jazz, poetry readings, film series, and certainly productions for children of all ages!



The Ware Center’s Longest Serving Employee

Jim Smith was at 42 N. Prince St. long before it was called The Ware Center. He was even there before there was a new building for the Pennsylvania Academy of Music (PAM).

Jim Smith

“The old PAM building was a bank, and the AAA (American Automobile Association) was next door,” says Smith. “There was a wrought iron fence in front of it with a courtyard. Grant Street ran through the middle of the AAA parking lot. Steinman Hall now sits where AAA used to be.”

Smith started working part-time for PAM in 1999 doing audio and video recording. “In 2003 I became involved with the architects and consultants; however, groundbreaking for the building was delayed so they could raise more money,” says Smith. “During construction, I’d occasionally go into or around the building to see how it was coming, and in December of 2007 I was offered the full-time job as facility manager of PAM. I was the only one with tech knowledge and an audio visual background, so I became the go-to person—once they found out I knew what I was talking about. I also got training on HVAC, plumbing—it was pretty overwhelming.”

“In 2009, PAM’s financial troubles started to come forward and we didn’t know if we’d be working the next month,” said Smith. “The bank took ownership and that’s when the University showed interest.”

“Roger Bruszewski [former vice president of Finance and Administration] approached the bank and wanted to see the building. I started giving tours for MU and on one of those tours, Roger asked me to stay on board. The biggest changes we had were setting up the building for classrooms. Only two had been classrooms; the rest were small studios. The third floor had major changes; knocking out walls, adding a classroom where a student lounge had been and adding a catering kitchen.”

There was also significant work adding technology, flat screens, projectors, to make the building similar to the classrooms on campus.

Smith remains at The Ware Center today, the longest serving Millersville employee there, working as the building maintenance foreman. Next time you visit The Ware Center, ask Jim to give you a tour of the bank vault.

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