Harmons Make Theatre Gift Honoring Their Daughter, Meridith
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Oct. 7, 2010) – Longtime Warrensburg residents Lynn and Jackie Harmon have made a gift to the University of Central Missouri Foundation establishing a professorship and guest artist series in the Department of Theatre in honor of their daughter, Meridith Harmon Sauer, speech and theatre teacher at Warrensburg High School.
Richard Herman, department chair, announced the gift Oct. 6 during the opening night of the music and theatre departments’ joint production of “A Chorus Line.”
“These gifts will make a huge impact on both our academic and production programs,” Herman said. “The professorship will provide us funds to assist faculty in future academic and professional training which, in turn, will provide dividends to our students. The guest artist series will allow us to bring in nationally and regionally recognized theatre artists and educators to work hand-in-hand with our students and faculty.”
Among those taking part in the recent announcement of the Meridith Harmon Sauer Endowed Distinguished Professorship in Theatre at the University of Central Missouri were, from left, Richard Herman, chair of the Department of Theatre, and UCM alumni from Warrensburg, Meridith Harmon Sauer and her parents, Jackie and Lynn Harmon.
The Meridith Harmon Sauer Endowed Distinguished Professorship in Theatre is the first permanently endowed professorship at Central Missouri. An endowment such as the Meridith Harmon Sauer Endowed Guest Artist Series is rare at a public Missouri university.
“This gift is humbling,” said Sauer. “My parents always stressed for me to do my best. I feel now that they are acknowledging my efforts in education and my contributions to our community. It also spurs me on to continue working to inspire and educate my own theatre students.”
The Harmons noted they made their gift to honor their youngest daughter, while also helping future students and supporting a quality academic program.
“We seek out opportunities for furthering education,” said Lynn Harmon. “We like to support superior programs and this opportunity to recognize Meridith’s education gives us the opportunity to place an endowment for educating students in the future in a program that we see as superior in our region and highly recognized in our state.”
Lynn said that he particularly likes the collaboration aspects that a guest artist series can develop between the university and area high schools.
“When we were talking about how to structure the gift, we were thinking about the international speakers who come to campus, and Dr. Herman said we can do the same things with performers,” he said. “By bringing in students from Warrensburg and other high schools, this series can become a great recruiting tool to get them to consider UCM. That’s the kind of multiplication of benefits that we like.”
“We value education very highly,” said Jackie Harmon, noting her family’s educational legacy. “My mother [Dorothy Stockton Sims] was in education as a teacher and principal for more than 40 years. My father taught, my sister taught. And all three of our children have education degrees.” The Harmons have made similar endowment gifts to the alma maters of their two older children, Monte and Shanna. They also have started a variety of scholarships and supported several other programs at UCM.
Sauer is a third-generation UCM graduate. The 1996 theatre education alumna has strong university ties on both sides of her family with her husband, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles holding a variety of UCM degrees. Many also graduated from College High School, including both her parents in 1962. Lynn retired in 1995 after more than three decades in the banking business while Jackie, who earned a master’s degree in education from UCM, substitute taught and stayed busy with family, church and volunteer activities on local and state levels. She recalls her youngest daughter dressing up and acting all her life. “She was never too inhibited,” she added.
Sauer realized she loved studying theatre in high school. She decided while acting in “South Pacific” her senior year that she wanted to pursue it in college. “In Warrensburg, theatre isn’t offered until high school,” she explained. “Once in theatre class, I knew this was what I wanted to study. It was a very easy decision. Traditional subjects in school had always come easy for me, but the performance-based assessment in theatre was a challenge and I liked that.”
She was recruited to UCM by Ed See, professor emeritus of theatre. “Being a student of Dr. See was inspiring. He regarded educational theatre as something important and that, among other things, contributed to my feeling that I wanted to go into educational theatre. He presented it in the highest esteem, that it’s a worthy and noble thing to add to a school and to a student’s life.”
At Warrensburg High School, she’s exposing students to more than just the performance aspects of theatre. Taking over the program six years ago, she reintroduced a stagecraft class and developed a freshman introductory course. To provide students as many performance opportunities as possible, she added a one-act play component to a theatre arts course and started a drama club that sponsors an annual murder mystery dinner theatre. In Sauer’s first year of teaching, her one-act play took second in state competition. Her first academic article was recently published in the Journal of the Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri.
The newest venture for the mother of two is serving on the Warrensburg Arts Commission and starting a community theatre. “It’s a great opportunity for families to create something together and every time you create something together, you get closer. I’m excited to see where this goes.”