$500,000 donation and over $3m in grants help expand Wilson Center, CFCC outreach

Shane Fernando is joined by Henry and Roya Weyerhaeuser to announce the expansion of the Wilson Center, which will add on a donor lounge and event space in the courtyard. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — In the last week, Cape Fear Community College and the Wilson Center cumulatively received more than $3.5 million in grants and donations that will expand and strengthen arts, education and community outreach in the Cape Fear region. 

Henry and Roya Weyerhaeuser donated a half-million dollars Tuesday to spearhead the groundbreaking of a special events space and donor lounge at the Wilson Center, to be constructed in the performance hall’s courtyard. Initially, the center’s conceptualized designs — created by LS3P ahead of the 1,500-seat venue’s 2015 opening — included plans to host a lounge and events space. 

“But [it] was a casualty of the design process,” said Shane Fernando, CFCC vice president of advancement and the arts.


LS3P will now oversee the addition. 

“We are in the process of finalizing the timeline designs and full project costs,” Ferando added. 

The lounge will provide benefactors a private place to have a drink or gather ahead of shows. Otherwise, it will act as a place for student-learning opportunities or community organizations who wish to utilize the space for events.

The addition also will include an expansion of guest services, ticket central, student offices, and lobby support. No announcements were made about when the addition will break ground. 

Fernando said the Weyerhausers have been supporters of the Wilson Center since its inception. In fact, they’re one of the top three contributors to Cape Fear Community College Foundation.

“Henry and Roya stepped up early for the Wilson Center years ago,” Fernando said, “giving support to the installation of the stage technology to ensure that this facility was one of the most advanced and powerful in our state from day one.”

They are hallmarked in the Wilson Center, with a stage and parterre areas already honoring their name. 

The couple also donates to Thalian Hall, Cameron Art Museum and UNCW, among other organizations. 

“When my husband dragged me out here in ‘81, I said, ‘Why, why — don’t do this,’” Roya quipped to a crowd of local officials and politicians who gathered at the Wilson Center Tuesday for the announcement. 

A Juilliard graduate and concert pianist, Roya has traveled the world, as well as played shows and hosted workshops locally. She and her husband moved to Wilmington from New York.

“I could not be happier to be here,” Roya said. “I love this community, I love Wilmington, I’m so proud to be a part of it.”

Henry and Roy Weyerhaeuser “break ground” after donating a half-million dollars to erect the student lounge and event space at the Wilson Center. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

The Wilson Center is getting back into full swing after being shuttered through Covid-19 and having to cancel or reschedule event dates. Broadway tours (“CATS”), traveling shows (“Price Is Right,” “MasterChef Live!”) and concerts (ZZ Top, Melissa Etheridge) have been announced most recently.

Last week, the Wilson Center reported the Invertigo Dance Theatre residency would take place during its 2022-2023 season. The residency is made possible from a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts.

“The arts, when partnered with education, have the power like no other to inspire young people and transform communities,” Fernando said in the release.

Invertigo will perform “Formulae and Fairy Tales,” which centers on the life of Alan Turing, best known as a World War II codebreaker and mathematician. The dance troupe’s residency will fold in youth community events in both arts and sciences, as well as dance workshops.

In addition to its boost to the arts community, CFCC’s president, Jim Morton, announced Tuesday the community college keeps reaching more students. It has experienced an uptick in its ranking among other community colleges in the state, now holding the number five spot — up from seven. Morton said it also had a 2% increase in enrollment from last summer, with projections for fall 2021 up by 5%.

“We have been extremely creative with our enrollment strategies and seeking out opportunities, not to mention we educate and train students from high school throughout life — and even offer many a second chance,” he explained.

Continuing on that track, Morton announced CFCC was a recipient of the United States Department of Labor’s grant, Pathway Home. The grant will allot over $3 million to the college to provide inmates services that help them adjust and prepare for reimmersion into society. 

“This grant is to help those individuals who have been incarcerated in New Hanover County and Pender counties,” Morton specified. “Funding is also allocated for housing transportation to help them back home after prison. That is to help fast-track them back into the workforce so they can live independently.”

Morton revealed it’s the largest grant the college has ever received and will be put to use through educational opportunities and work-training programs for inmates. The money also will help strengthen relationships with community partners, like LINC Inc. and other agencies that support inmates with pre-release and post-release services.

“Community support is what sets Cape Fear Community College truly apart from our peers,” Morton said.  


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