The stars at ASU Gammage aren’t just on the stage.
Every year, ASU Gammage awards two honors for the people and organizations that go above and beyond to connect the arts to the Arizona community and support ASU Gammage in making that mission possible. The 2018 Gammy Award will be presented to Camp Broadway and the 2018 Jerry Award will be presented to Susan and Bill Ahearn.
The Ahearns have been supporters of ASU Gammage since their first dates at the venue in their twenties. They continue that support through their work connecting disadvantaged youth to the arts, spearheading the historic theater’s restoration and spending countless hours volunteering at ASU Gammage events such as the 2004 presidential debate and Homecoming Block Party.
“I think volunteering keeps you alive, and it keeps you young, and we’ll keep doing it as long as we can,” Susan Ahearn said.
The Ahearns have been volunteers at ASU Gammage since the 1970s and have watched the arts change the Valley. Their philanthropic donations began in 1989 and they are two of ASU Gammage’s most influential donors. The Jerry Award honors individuals who embody the standard set by the late Jerry Appell, a fervent supporter of ASU Gammage.
“I hope we will inspire others to get invested themselves, not just buy a ticket and go to a show; but that idea of saying this theater and what is going on is important to them, and they want to support that in the future,” Bill Ahearn said.
The Ahearns are committed to paying forward the opportunities they have had in their lives. They hope to raise up young performers and continue assisting ASU Gammage in bringing world-class performances to the people in Arizona.
“We’ve lived kind of a privileged life, I think, and I think there’s a lot of people who don’t have that opportunity … there’s people who probably have lots of talent and if they were exposed to this they could be the next Broadway star, but they don’t have the opportunity,” Susan Ahearn said. “If we are in the position to help those people further their ambitions … what an impact that might have on the future of our country even.”
The Gammy Award winner supports that same value. Camp Broadway is an immersive week-long experience where high school students put on a full-length musical with assistance and mentoring from professionals in the musical theater industry.
“When Camp Broadway was thinking about taking their incredibile program on the road, we jumped at the chance to be the first city to partner with them,” said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage and associate vice president of cultural affairs at ASU. “Camp Broadway has really taken our mission of Connecting Communities and really accomplished it from the ground up by creating opportunities for the stars and patrons of tomorrow.”
Accepting the award on behalf of Camp Broadway is Susan E. Lee, who founded Camp Broadway in 1995 in a small studio space in New York City. She is currently the CEO of the organization.
“Susan is the fearless leader of an organization that actively creates the next generation of artists, theater-goers and leaders,” Jennings-Roggensack said.
Winners will receive their awards on March 12 at ASU Gammage.
Emi Kamezaki contributed to this article