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Interview with Ruth Funk, August 7, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Ruth Funk, August 7, 2007
August 7, 2007
Dr. Ruth Christy Funk retired to Wilmington with her husband, Dr. Frank Funk, from Syracuse University in New York where she was head of the Doctoral program. Dr. Funk has been President of the Wilmington Symphony and of WHQR, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Bellamy Mansion and the Chamber Music Society. She is also one of the original organizers of ARCH, a group of Wilmingtonians giving their time, talents and funds toward building Concert Hall locally. This interview describes in depth the research, architecture, fundraising and need for such a building.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Funk, Ruth Interviewer: Jones, Carroll Date of Interview: 8/7/2007 Series: SENC Volunteers Length 60 minutes

Jones: Today is Tuesday, August 7, 2007. I'm Carroll Jones with Chris Malpass for the Randall Library Special Collections Oral History Program. We're pleased to have as our guest Dr. Ruth Funk. Dr. Funk and her husband, Dr. Frank Funk, came to Wilmington from Syracuse University, New York. Is that correct?

Ruth Funk: That's correct.

Jones: Good. She was head of the doctoral...

Ruth Funk: The graduate school.

Jones: Graduate school, all right. At present, Dr. Funk is heavily involved in raising funds for a concert hall, much needed in this city. Good afternoon, Dr. Funk, and thank you for visiting us. Let's start off by telling something about your background, where you're from, interests, and how and why you came to Wilmington.

Ruth Funk: Well I was born and raised in farmland, in Western Pennsylvania, just up the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh. And that I think is significant. All four of my grandparents were immigrants from Scotland and northern England, the Christies, my father's name, the McGee's, my mother's name, and then their maternal grandparents were Clarks and Spences. And all of them were crofters, which is to say they farmed other people's land and came to America because they wanted their own land.

Jones: What period was this when they came?

Ruth Funk: Well my father was born in America in 1894 so his parents would have come to the American continent and settled along about the 1860s or 70s. They- none of them had any opportunity to go beyond a one room school and so they finished the- what we now call the elementary grades. But strangely enough when I got to high school and was struggling with, principally mathematics and trigonometry and those kinds of things, my father, who is a product of a one room schoolhouse, tutored me in those advanced mathematics. So it either says something wonderful about my father or about one room schools. He used to say that you really learned when you taught other people, and in one room schools, the older children taught the younger children. That may have had something to do with it. On the farm, you had all kinds of options. You could work in the fields, you could work in the house, you could do all kinds of things. One thing you couldn't do was not work. So you could choose what tasks you wanted to do, but there was always those tasks. I think that has had something to do with the kind of person I am and so forth.

Jones: This was an ethic that was instilled in you.

Ruth Funk: Yeah, strongly. And I was also tail end Charlie. My siblings were a great deal older than I was. By the time I was born my two oldest brothers were near high school graduation and the younger set were going into high school. So I was tail end Charlie, I'm sure unexpected, and became sort of the plaything of the family. Which, you know, there's now a lot of talk about sibling positions and so forth. I think I must have had the best of all worlds.

Jones: You probably did.

Ruth Funk: Yes. So I think that had something to do with it.

Jones: And your parents probably enjoyed you, in some ways more, because they had more time and they had been through it before.

Ruth Funk: Right. And I think they became lax in some things and I probably got away with a lot of things.

Jones: It just made you feel loved.

Ruth Funk: Yeah, indeed. Indeed. My father, too, was a man ahead of his time, and he instilled in me a sense that I, even as a girl or a woman, could do anything that I was suited to do. And also, I came of age just after the second world war when there was this enormous, palpable spirit of confidence. Not only had we, Americans, I had had nothing to do with it, we Americans had saved the world for freedom, but there was this sense that the GIs could make anything out of spam cans and so forth. This sense of the world was our oyster. And it's so very different now, I think, in the United States. But then there was this tremendous sense of confidence. So...

Jones: I have to interrupt you. When you say it's different now as opposed to then, are you speaking primarily of the entire nation, more or less, having a sense of wellbeing and looking forward and almost a sense of equality, you can do it.

Ruth Funk: Yes, very much so. Levittown proved that even ordinary people could own their own homes. So, you know, there was just that going on at that time.

Jones: Do you think also the fact that a great percentage of men, perhaps who'd worked on farms before, now was an opportunity, through the GI bill, they could go to school. Women took men's jobs during the war so they were freed of the kitchen.

Ruth Funk: Well we'll get to that, the women's side of it, but definitely the GI bill-- while I was at Syracuse, someone there did some research about the number of Syracuse faculty who had come up through the educational ranks through the GI bill. It just blew your mind when you realized what that had meant for the nation as a whole as well as all those individuals. Now most of them were men, obviously, and there was still very much in the 60s a sense that women could be nurses, teachers, things, secretaries, but we really- we were way far away from the current sense where there are more women getting, undergraduate particularly, and in many fields, engineering, the sciences, where women just were not welcome before, the equality is there now, to say nothing about the number of CEOs and college and university presidents and so forth. Things have happened. But in the 60s there was still very much women's place. Rosie the Riveter went back to the kitchen. There weren't the opportunities for women. And I found even in my lifetime that I had to fight to be taken seriously as a student. For example when I started back to the state university of New York at Albany, they weren't going to let me take a full academic load because I had domestic responsibilities. My children were still in school. And I had to make a scene to get- to be allowed to take a full academic load. And of course I made sure-- they gave me one semester to prove that I could handle it, and you'd better believe I aced that semester. I, you know, I worked my tail off to make that point. That's just foreign to our thinking now, enormous changes. I think one of the things that also made a difference to me was I had a major professor in my doctoral program in American Lit at Syracuse who sort of taught by provocation. He would make statements about a poem or about [cell phone] oh dear, I'm sorry-- who was one of these sort of spellbinding lecturers. And a lot of students at Syracuse not in the English department would fight to audit some of his courses because the lectures were so good. But as my major professor he taught, as I said, by provocation. He would throw out these statements against which I would argue vociferously. And I- it- I usually came to the point of view that he had been right, but getting there was the adventure.

Jones: That was done on purpose wasn't it?

Ruth Funk: Absolutely. He did it on purpose. And there were occasions when I thought I had argued him out of his position and that was really heady stuff. But I think that helped me a great deal in my own teaching, and then also in my administrative work at Syracuse, to always come at things from various points of view, testing what the possibilities were instead of assuming that your viewpoint was always the correct one.

Jones: Let me ask you this, in your work with doctoral candidates, was it as by the book as it is now or was there some leeway, would you say, with the individual candidate in recognizing that they may have-- I'm trying to put something together. I've seen it happen so often when we have thesis defense and so forth that there's a certain building nervousness, or you've worked all this time and they're not going to let-- oh it's awful. This sort of thing. Is performance part of it? Is understanding the individual part of it? I think in some cases today that they're so structured that if you don't fall within certain guidelines, no matter what, you're out. And you can't help but think about all those individuals who have become super human beings who failed at something.

Ruth Funk: Right. Well one of the cases that came to the graduate school during my tenure there was an interesting one. Jay McInerny, yes, that Jay McInerny, had been a master's candidate in the English department, had completed the coursework but not the thesis for the masters degree. And the English department petitioned the graduate school that Mr. McInerny be allowed to use his first novel, highly acclaimed first novel, what was it, City Lights I think, as his master's degree and as the thesis for completing the requirement. And I was very pleased to okay that. Now if the faculty in the English department had not been agreeable, the graduate school could not have done that. But where the faculty also saw the sense, the beautiful sense, of allowing that to happen then, you know, then rituals were disposed of and it happened. I think it's very much field related, but my sense was that in most cases, particularly at the doctoral level, a student's passion for a particular topic was very much taken into consideration. The major professor might not think that that was the greatest topic in the world or didn't fit with his or her major interest, but the student's passion for exploring a particular issue or point was very much in effect.

Jones: That's good. There was some meaningness about it.

Ruth Funk: Yes, very much. And passion is a good deal of academic work.

Jones: I think it's a good deal of whatever you accomplish in life.

Ruth Funk: Yes, I think it is. But that's sort of old history. Now we're in Wilmington and have been for a long time. This is our...

Jones: How did you happen to come to Wilmington?

Ruth Funk: Well that's an academic story too. When it came time for us to think about retirement, there was a strong pull to stay in Syracuse. We'd been in that community for a long, long time. Our friends were there. Our children were not there.

Jones: Did you and your husband meet there?

Ruth Funk: Yes, we did. Yes. Both of us had been married before and we met at the university through the university.

Jones: So there is a real strong tie.

Ruth Funk: Yeah, very much so. That had been our home for a very long time. On the other hand, we didn't want to happen to us what we'd seen other friends- what we'd seen happen to other friends, that their ties with the university prevented them from breaking away, and conversation would begin with things like, oh you won't believe what they're going (laughter) and we didn't want to become sort of the hangers on.

Jones: Never having to leave your old hometown, which is quite small.

Ruth Funk: Right. On the positive side we thought, hey, this is a time to have an adventure, you know. So much of what we do through our lives is tied up with where the jobs are, where the family is, where we've grown up or where our children or all of those kinds of things. Well this was a time when none of those compulsions were in effect for us, so we decided, you know, let's go somewhere for the where. So we set about it very academically with, you know, long sheets of these are the things we want. And we spent a lot of time researching retirement areas.

Jones: (inaudible) and so forth.

Ruth Funk: Oh yes. And there are dozens of publications, you know, about the ten best places to retire and all those kinds of things. We came to this area to look at Southport, which was then very highly rated. So we came from Syracuse, snow, slush, cold...

Jones: And what time of the year did you come?

Ruth Funk: March. Came here, bulbs were in bloom, spring trees were in bloom.

Jones: No hurricanes as they say.

Ruth Funk: No hurricanes, no. I don't think we'd even though about hurricanes. But we looked at Southport and thought it was lovely, but very quiet, and maybe too quiet. There were things that we wanted. We wanted a community that had a university, good hospitals, good transportation systems, lots and lots of cultural resources. And so while we had come to look at Southport, we looked at Wilmington.

Jones: And what frame of time was this?

Ruth Funk: This was...

Jones: 70s?

Ruth Funk: No, this would've been in March of '88.

Jones: So I-40 was open and...

Ruth Funk: No, I-40 had not yet opened.

Jones: When did that open?

Ruth Funk: Somewhere in the early 90s I think, shortly after we came here, but it wasn't open then. We came down 421. But in any case we got out our checklist and realized that Wilmington had nearly everything we were looking for. And though we didn't know very much about Wilmington and knew nobody in Wilmington, we decided this was the place for us. So in '89...

Jones: You were adventuresome.

Ruth Funk: Yes, it was an adventure. And the first-- we had- we came to retirement with very silly ideas about retirement. We saw retirement as a time when I would do a lot of reading and gardening, Frank would begin his- in earnest his model train building. We would walk on the beach hours every day.

Jones: Yes, we did the same thing.

Ruth Funk: But by golly, we did all of those things for close to a year. And I can remember, we had come into Wilmington for a concert. I'm not even sure what concert it was, but I remember standing in the balcony of Kenan Auditorium and looking down at-- this was at intermission, we looked down at the crowd and I said to Frank or he said to me isn't this wonderful. Nobody knows us and we don't know anybody down there. It was wonderful to be free of all of the constraints. I couldn't go grocery shopping without running into a faculty member or a graduate student. And we had been very busy volunteer-- doing volunteer work, as well as busy at the university, so I think maybe we needed that time of kind of hibernation. But then we got to be bored silly and realized that what we really needed was to be involved and to begin to feel useful again. Great good fortune, through just dumb luck, we met Betty and Dan Cameron. And they took us under their generous and wide wings and introduced us to a lot of people. And Dan kept asking well what do you want to do for Wilmington? What would you like to do for Wilmington? And, you know, Dan-- I can't image two people in Wilmington who had more right to be exclusive and to resent outsiders and who were less so. They loved to see people coming to Wilmington.

Jones: They're very, very-- their background, though, stayed with them. They're very, very, as you found out, down to earth, up front people. No nonsense, but up front.

Ruth Funk: And all Dan ever wanted from any newcomer was that that person would love Wilmington, as you said. So through them and others we were put in touch with various things. and my volunteer work in Syracuse had been pretty much social service oriented. I was president of the girl's club and YWCA and on the cabinet of the United Way and so forth.

Jones: Very respectable.

Ruth Funk: Yes, respectable, but I thought here that I wanted my niche to be the arts. And so I was invited to come on the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra Board and I gladly did so. And then was part of the developing board for the chamber music society of Wilmington and then got on the WHQR board and was president of that board for a while.

Jones: You were? When were you president of WHTY?

Ruth Funk: I can't remember. It would've been in the late 90s, early 2000. And pretty soon both of us were very, very much involved in the life, and feeling once again useful. And I go back to all of those lucky happenstances in early life.

Jones: Beginning with your childhood.

Ruth Funk: Yes. And, you know, feeling useful. People say that retirement is a time to give back. I think I'm more selfish than that. I understand what they're saying about giving back, and there is that nice sense, but for me it's the opportunity to continue to feel useful. That's the key for me. And I think a lot of people feel that.

Jones: I think you're-- well now, yes, I think you're right. I think it's-- now my husband won't agree with this but I do feel you're right. I think people really do know their limitations and they pick and choose where they can be useful to keep in touch with what's going on and people, and also a sense of self worth yourself. His idea is that there are a lot of people who should be doing things like that and yet they spend their time watching television, playing bridge, going to red hat society things or doing nothing. I said well where does this come from? He said well I can't get anybody to do anything. I think also since he was raised here that his generation, they're still not quite sure if they should be resentful enough of all the Yankees and yet they're watching, they're drawing life, but were never taught. This was a sleepy town and it's going to go on forever, this nice calm way.

Ruth Funk: Well for many people, unfortunately, work was not the wonderfully satisfying thing that it was for many of us too. And so the absence of work is enough. And now they want to play. They want to play golf, they want to play bridge, and that's fine, you know. I make no...

Jones: I don't begrudge these people this. I know what you're saying because as I said I agree with you. I had the same sense, otherwise I wouldn't be here now. But at the same time I have to tell my husband and a few other people just calm down. This is their way of life. They feel they earned it. Because we don't know where those people came from. They may have come from nothing and are so proud of earning the right to retire early and comfortably that they are treating themselves. I frankly see nothing wrong with that, but I can't do it because I'm not built that way.

Ruth Funk: Well, I'm not good at golf either so there it goes.

Jones: So that's interesting. You began to do your volunteer work and it looked like it was mainly with music and the arts. Were you a musician as a young person?

Ruth Funk: No, by no means, you know. I went through the usual piano lessons and I did musical theater in high school and college and so forth, but I never had any illusions.

Jones: Just an appreciation.

Ruth Funk: Yes, absolutely. I say that I am the artist's best friend. I love their talent. I'm not jealous of it and sit there and appreciate it. But music I think is one of the universal languages, as is visual art. So that can be...

Jones: Are you still active in any of these?

Ruth Funk: Yes. I'm still- I've gone back on the board after a hiatus of the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra. I'm now serving on the board also of the Bellamy Mansion Museum, which is a little step away from the arts and yet there it is.

Jones: Who is doing it with them?

Ruth Funk: Right. Well, the Bellamy is architectural art as well as a preservation of historic significance and so there is quite the connection still with visual arts.

Jones: Now have they redone slave quarters at this point?

Ruth Funk: Not quite. We're getting close on that. But- and it also is a great pleasure for both Frank and me to be active in our church. We worshipped at Hendricks Chapel, which is the chapel on the campus, which was a nice situation for us. But it doesn't have the sense of a church, of a stable congregation, because students come and go, faculty come and go. Hendricks Chapel was home not only to all the protestant sects, but to Islamic, Hindus and so forth. So it's a different kind of experience, and well worth having in many ways, but it's now been very pleasant for us to be part of a congregation and to be involved.

Jones: Is it one of our older ones?

Ruth Funk: The First Presbyterian Church, which is also a thing of beauty as well as a wonderfully vibrant congregation.

Jones: You must know Penny Newhouse.

Ruth Funk: Oh indeed I do. Indeed I do.

Jones: I've been trying to get Penny in here for a long time.

Ruth Funk: Yes, you must. You must.

Jones: Well she doesn't want to do it right now. And I know that when her husband was ill, when Wes was ill, and I gave her some time, and she's been involved in volunteerism ever since she's lived here.

Ruth Funk: Yes and is just a crackerjack. She is the immediate past president of the Bellamy Mansion board and...

Jones: I've known her I guess about 9 years.

Ruth Funk: Yeah. Yeah. A wonderful person.

Jones: I want to tell her that I've spoken to you and you gave me a directive, get her in here.

Ruth Funk: Yes, do. I'll tell her myself.

Jones: All right. Do that.

Ruth Funk: But I want to get to ARCH, the Alliance for a Regional Concert Hall, because it is a wonderfully American thing. A group of interested citizens gets together and says what are we going to do about, you name, whatever it is they want to do about. And they organize themselves and bring others in and pretty soon they've got a block of people who are willing to work to solve whatever or to create something new or whatever. ARCH is that typically American thing. About ten years ago a small group of people, probably a dozen or so, most of them affiliated with the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra, came together in one of our houses and, you know, you bring the potatoes and I'll bring the pie and that kind of thing, and said what are we going to do about getting a first class venue for the arts in Wilmington. And not just Wilmington, the larger region. And therein was born the idea of the performance hall, which is much closer to fruition now than it was then. I can't believe we've been at it ten years. On the other hand, one of our consultants has told us that- two wonderful things. It takes a long time for something to happen suddenly, and we all know that to be true. And the other wonderful phrase that he gave us was momentum is more important than speed. And that rings very true. And certainly to- very true to the ARCH experience. When we started out we were abysmally naïve. We thought what we needed to do was to build a concert hall, you know, like Boston Symphony Hall, a traditional square box hall that was for unamplified music only and, you know, love to have one of those. But we realized that what this region needed was a multipurpose hall, a really fine multipurpose hall, that would be good, even excellent, for unamplified music, the classical music, all kinds of unamplified music, but would also accommodate theater, dance, the lecture circuit, country western, jazz, blue grass, a sort of we say whimsically, you know. Short of mud wrestling we want it to fit into this hall. So while the acronym remains, the Alliance for a Regional Concert Hall, what we're really planning to build is a performance hall, a multipurpose performance hall. And, you know, 30 years ago they were building performance halls, which had the right idea, but acoustically they became somewhat multi-useless halls. They were good for everything, excellent for nothing. But science has changed and architecture has changed and now multipurpose performance halls are being built that are really, really good for everything that they can accommodate. One of our problems here in Wilmington is that we don't-- first of all its size. We don't have anything big enough to bring in, for instance, broadway road shows. You've got to have enough seats to sell so that every ticket isn't $250. We have Thalian, which is a gem, it's wonderful, but it seats maybe in a pinch 600 people. That's just not big enough to bring in the kind of things that now our demography can accommodate and wants.

Jones: This is something. I'm glad you brought that up because I wanted to go there with the growth in population and in miles, people can come anywhere.

Ruth Funk: Right. Our data show that people coming to Kenan auditorium for the events that Kenan Auditorium puts on, subscription events, come from a 90 mile radius. It's, you know, you think Kenan Auditorium is pretty much a Wilmington, South Pender, maybe East Brunswick a little bit, it isn't.

Jones: It's southeastern North Carolina.

Ruth Funk: Exactly. And while bless Kenan Auditorium, I don't know what we'd have done these past 32 or 33 years without it, but it is not a fine venue.

Jones: I have been there, Doctor, when they've had performances with big bands and the acoustics have been so bad that a number of elderly people, particularly wearing hearing aids and such, have had to leave.

Ruth Funk: And it's not Kenan Auditorium's fault. It was built as an auditorium. It's like a school auditorium. And it has served well, but when a symphony orchestra is on stage, anybody going from this wing to that wing practically has to flatten himself or herself against the back wall to get around it. The stage is not adequate. If you notice the North Carolina Symphony, the bass fiddles are off stage. The last rows of the first and second violins are off stage. It's creacking at the seams.

Jones: How long ago was this alliance formed?

Ruth Funk: Ten years ago. We've gone through a lot of iterations. Jim Leutze-- this is a kind of funny story. We had decided that this venue needed to be downtown Wilmington. And prior to that decision we had come to the university to see if the university had any interest in having it on- replacing Kenan with a new venue. And at that time, Chancellor Leutze said no way, we have other fish to fry, you know. So we were working on the premise that it needed to be downtown somewhere. So we had made a presentation to the city council to let us quietly go about some iterations of will it fit here, will it fit there, how much would this parcel cost and so forth. And we would pay for that kind of exploration and we would come back to them at some point and we were making that same kind of presentation before the county commissioners. I was at the microphone doing this please let us work quietly and don't impede us, when the county manager at that time interrupted and said...

Jones: (inaudible). Who was it? The manager?

Ruth Funk: Right. That's right. And he has now gone. I've forgotten his name. But in any case, interrupted and said oh, Chancellor Leutze wants it on UNCW's campus. I was mad as hops, you know. I was making the point of all the goods that would flow to everyone from having this elsewhere, and the chancellor had said no to us previously, and how dare he tell somebody else that he wanted it on campus. So I went to see Jim and we had a good conversation.

Jones: Did you really?

Ruth Funk: Yes, after I vented for a while.

Jones: You must've been (inaudible).

Ruth Funk: In any case, Chancellor Leutze had rethought the issue and had realized that it would be a win win situation for UNCW. He had gotten burned on a couple of other community issues that he had tried and thought that this was one where the university and the community could work together, and successfully. So for about six and a half years we worked under the premise that this new building would be housed on the campus, and what the campus would contribute would be the land and perhaps some of the basic maintenance of the building, heat, lights, you know, those kinds of things. And that ARCH would raise the money to build it and the endowment to make sure that it would operate successfully. It was a good partnership, which fell apart fairly suddenly over this past winter.

Jones: I think I read about that.

Ruth Funk: Yes, yes. And that was at first a real blow. We were, I'm speaking now about ARCH, sorry about that because we had spent a lot of time and money, had invested money in, we'd hired a consultant to make it work on campus. We'd gone through an architectural competition, a very exciting competition where we'd invited five well known performance architects to enter a competition to design concepts that would fit with the campus, the special architecture of the campus. And so when the university decided that no, they didn't really want it on campus, all of that- it looked at first like all of that was just wasted effort, wasted money, wasted time, wasted time. It hasn't turned out to be that. And in many ways we see that in the long run it's going to be better not to have this resource on campus, that it's better to have it off campus for a lot of reasons.

Jones: I can think of several frankly.

Ruth Funk: Yes, yes. So we had to redo some of the planning process that we'd gone through. We've accomplished that. Our concept drawings of course are down the tubes, but during that process we learned so much more about how you build one of these things and what the factors are and we know so much more than we did before.

Jones: And you're wiser.

Ruth Funk: Much wiser. And we are maintaining the architectural firm that we had chosen initially and they have been working with us on a continuing basis to house this building elsewhere.

Jones: So is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Ruth Funk: Yes there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have four possible sites for it at which we're looking. We've ranked those. We know our preferred site. It's all going to come down to how much that land is going to cost, how much the city and county can help us defray some of those costs, but we're working right along, as I said before we started this interview, a meeting with a wonderful group of people who has been formed now for about a year called the Council. These are people-- the ARCH board are people sort of like I am. We are the passionate ones. We're the ones that said what are we gonna do about this problem. We are not particularly skilled in raising funds, negotiating contracts and so forth. So we realize that what we- one of the groups that we need to help us is people who are. People who, when you say this thing is going to cost probably just for construction $40 million, don't go uh. They've built things previously for a lot more money than that and they know how money is raised and they have contacts that can help us do that. We also...

Jones: Are you satisfied with the people that you have on your council to do that?

Ruth Funk: Oh yes, they're just wonderful people.

Jones: I can just picture who some of those people are.

Ruth Funk: Yes. And we're always looking to add people to that group as well. And they've just been grand. They've gotten the passion too, I think, and feel very strongly that this is something they want to accomplish. Another group that we've added is a group we call the Outreach Committee. And they're a group of people who love to give parties. They love to get people together and they know how to do it. For them it's, you know, they've done this hundreds of times maybe.

Jones: And there is an advantage to having people like that and it's a skill to tell you the truth. It truly is.

Ruth Funk: Maybe even an art.

Jones: It is that too, depending upon which group you're having and what time of day it is, the whole number.

Ruth Funk: That's right. So they're the group who stand ready when we are ready to make announcements, and to start talking with people about what this will mean to our community and those kinds of things. And we have yet another group who are adept in communications, particularly electronic communications, how to set up websites, how to make linkages and those kinds of things. So we've added to this basic group some skill sets that will help us. One of our next steps will be to talk with a campaign consultant. And there are people who do nothing but help people raise money for arts venues of one kind or another. They're specialists in that area and we'll very much need their help.

Jones: Could I ask you this, in the scheme of life, as it is today in this area with so much going on, a lot is happening as you know, how confident are you as a group in feeling that this would have a higher place in the realm of things? I'm talking about I don't think a day goes by, I don't think two or three days go by, I'll be more realistic, where a plea doesn't come in. They're all good, there's not a wasteful one among them, all for the benefit of helping the quality of life one way or another, whether it's in the arts, with children, with medicine, with the underprivileged, it goes on and on and on. And I think people have gotten to the point where they have to draw the line somewhere. So I'm sure you've discussed this and the feedback is what I'm interested in. As far as having a concert, I personally think, for all the reasons you named, it would be a true jewel here, and needed, and it would draw from all over, but have you gotten any feedback from those outside of your council and your boards as to what the general feeling might be?

Ruth Funk: Well, yes. That's the short answer. Part of what we did was to, with the consultant, seek the answers to two questions. The first question was are we blowing smoke? Does this region really need this venue? And the second question was if we build it, will they come? Can we afford to operate it successfully? And so a lot of research went into that. One three day period our consultants talked to about 120 people individually about those questions, particularly do we need this. One of the factors that we know to be primary to success for us is that so many people have come to this region, not just to the city of Wilmington, but to this region, from places where this was a given. You had this kind of a venue. And they miss it, terribly. Now they're having to go to Raleigh, they're having to go to Washington, they're having to go, in some cases, to Myrtle Beach, they're having to go to Charleston, they're having to go to Atlanta, to get the kinds of things to which they were accustomed. So there's that factor. There's also the factor that this kind of a venue is an appropriate and a significant naming opportunity for people who have the means to want their gifts to make an enormous statement and difference. And that's going to help us as well. Not just the name of the hall or the name of the lobby, but my plan is to buy several seats, you know.

Jones: And have a plaque that gives their names and all?

Ruth Funk: Exactly. Exactly. So that's going on. There's also this factor. Most of us are, as you are, bombarded with requests. But most of us know what we feel strongly about. And there are those people for whom the Cameron Art Museum is the highest priority and those people for whom Thalian Hall is the highest priority in their giving and those people for whom the hospital is their highest priority of giving. But even with those people, a multipurpose art venue has some resonance. And for a lot of people this is a chance to make a difference in something that they haven't been offered an opportunity to make a chance in. So, you know, if your buzz is blue grass or jazz, this is going to appeal to you a great deal. So we're fairly confident that we can pull this off.

Jones: That's very interesting and it's good news too. I had someone that we interviewed just a few days ago state, and I think it's very, very true, that no matter how much our neighboring counties, in particular Brunswick, one of the fastest growing in the country, which looked to me, my husband and I drove over there last week for the first time in ages just to mess around, that they're like distant bedroom communities in a way, and that we bet each other there's probably not one native Wilmingtonian that lives over there. But in the end it doesn't matter. Because no matter how that grows, how Pender grows, how anything else grows, Wilmington, because of its history, is not only central, but will always remain the hub and the jewel. So that a concert hall-- it wouldn't matter if you lived 50 miles away, you're going to come. Now there's another thing too. I heard a doctor, a medical doctor, recently state that sitting back and enjoying the works of somebody else, particularly music in any form, entertainment in any form, was mental health. And he gave examples. And I firmly believe that.

Ruth Funk: Yes, it is. And not only mental health for those of us who are of an age where the loss of mental health comes nearer and nearer, but our children. One of the things we found in doing this research of what's happening in our current venues is that we're not doing nearly enough for the children in our region. And, you know, the North Carolina Symphony blows in one time a year and does something for fourth and fifth graders. The Wilmington Symphony Orchestra does more because it's a year round youth orchestra. And I think now we have students in that youth orchestra from 19 different high schools, which is amazing. But again, the broad scope. But it's a pittance. We need to be doing much more for the children in our community. And bless the children's museum, that's a wonderful new venue in our community. But the arts need to be much more central in the education of our youth and our schools are being forced to do less and less of it. I mean our public schools. So that is a real concern as well that we may be able to address in some way.

Jones: How long do you think this is going to go on?

Ruth Funk: I hope...

Jones: Just-- you don't know I'm sure.

Ruth Funk: My line is within my lifetime, which is of course frivolous and silly. It doesn't have to happen within my lifetime. But if things go apace I would say that within the next 5 or 6 years we ought to have this venue. Now I'm counting on being ready to start the search for the funds either late this year or next year. Construction's going to take probably 24 months.

Jones: You got a site?

Ruth Funk: That's the first thing. We're hoping to close on a site within the next 5 or 6 months.

Jones: Would the owners of a site you choose be willing to donate part of what would be the price as a tax write off?

Ruth Funk: We're hoping. So, you know, foreseeable future.

Jones: But you speak with hope. And you've got more and more people who are joining the bandwagon, becoming active one way or another.

Ruth Funk: Yes. And there are things to do.

Jones: And these are people who are movers and shakers you have faith in, that it's going to happen.

Ruth Funk: I think it will. One thing I just have to tell you. In 1966 Charlie Boney [ph?] Sr. headed a committee that said we must build a performance venue and if we start today it will not be a day to soon. That was in 1966. This is not a new idea. And it is not a new need for this region. But we're hoping that Charlie Boney's committee, bless them, will have the satisfaction sometime soon of seeing that come to fruition.

Jones: Is Betty going to be part of your group by chance?

Ruth Funk: No. Charlie, however, we invited to help choose the architects when we had that architectural commission. And it was just fun to...

Jones: He's a wonderful, wonderful...

Ruth Funk: He is.

Jones: I always call him boyfriend. He just chuckles his head off.

Ruth Funk: He was the architect that started the UNCW campus Georgian architecture. Are you aware of that? He designed the first buildings on this campus. And at that time we thought it was very appropriate for Charlie to be involved with the performance hall, but it's always appropriate for Charlie to be involved. Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure to tell my little story as part of this larger story, and I compliment you for doing these interviews and getting people talking.

Jones: They're wonderful. And perhaps down the road we'll have you back and have you back with a couple of people that you've been working all these years with, to, I guess spread the joy and tell us what's really happening and when it's gonna be finished. And I think it would be just marvelous.

Ruth Funk: I would love to do that.

Jones: Good. Thank you so much.

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