Performing Arts Center to be renamed Clayes Center

In Theater & Arts

Successful investor was school’s third student body president

Published: Sunday, September 14, 2008
Updated: Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Cal State Fullerton Performing Arts Center, which opened in January 2006, will officially be named the Joseph A.W. Clayes III Performing Arts Center by the CSU Board of Trustees this week, thanks to a $5 million donation – the second largest donation in the history of the university from the trustees for Clayes’ estate.

Clayes began attending Cal State Fullerton in 1959 when classes were held at Sunny Hills High. He served on the campus’ first student council and later as Associated Student Body President, representing about 1,500 students on the new CSUF campus – then known as Orange County State College. He also personally signed the loan guarantee to enable CSUF’s first fraternity, Sigma Phi Omega, to have a home adjacent to the campus, Paula Selleck, university spokeswoman said.

The soon-to-be Joseph A.W. Clayes III Performing Arts Center is not the only local facility named after a member of the the Clayes family. Clayes’ grandfather, a longtime principal of Anaheim High School, saw the high school stadium, Clayes Field, named after him.

The $5 million donation to CSUF will establish a scholarship endowment for arts students.

“That is so decent,” musical theater major Ashlyn Wray, said. “Cal State Fullerton hasn’t been hit too hard by budget cuts, but typically the arts are the first thing to go. I am glad the price tag to name a building is $5 million.”

Clayes had many ties to the university, Selleck said. “For instance, his father was William Langsdorf’s college roommate.”

A self-made man, Clayes was a real estate and stock investor who also enjoyed opera, theater, and the arts, Selleck said.

Many performing arts students expressed elation at the thought of such a large donation to the arts programs. Because many musicians are being bought in the form of scholarships from schools like Long Beach State, this donation will help students stay at CSUF, Dylan Harlan, a grad student studying instrumental performance, said.

“In my opinion we have better faculty, but students go where the money is,” Harlan said.

The majority of art students are unable to get jobs because of their rigorous rehearsal schedule and they are living off of financial aid. Many of them also have class starting at 8:00 a.m and on-campus production work until 11:00 p.m., theater major Keelia Flinn said.

“We don’t have a choice. We don’t make any money, but we make the school money,” Flinn said. “People want to be in the theater program but can’t because they can’t afford it. This scholarship will help everyone.”

Clayes’ gift can be traced to emeritus professor James D. “Jim” Young, founding chair of the campus’s Theatre and Dance Department. He met with the Clayes’ trustees and encouraged them to consider the gift. Clayes and Young had reconnected in 2004, at a reunion of early 1960s-era graduates and professors, according to Inside, the online magazine of CSUF.

Students and faculty said they consider the gift to the arts program extremely valuable and have no qualms with the new name, which will undoubtedly be shortened to the Clayes Center.
“If he donates $5 million, I will name me after him,” Jimmy Bean, a musical theater major, said.

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