By: Jud Fisher—
Muncie, IN—Leigh Edwards, president of Muncie Civic Theatre’s board of directors, has been selected as the 2018 winner of the John W. and Janice B. Fisher Governance Award. The award, which recognizes the outstanding service of a board member to a Delaware County non-profit organization, was presented at the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner on October 25.
Edwards has served on the Theatre’s board since 2010 and has been president for the past three years. This year, Muncie Civic Theatre is celebrating its 87th season, making it one of the country’s oldest community theatres. Edward’s commitment to preserving the legacy of the Theatre and positioning it for the future is one of the reasons she was selected to receive this prestigious honor.
Edwards joined the Theatre’s board during a turbulent time and has helped to skillfully navigate staffing transitions, significant maintenance issues inherent in owning a historical building, and the financial ups-and-downs common to community theatres. In the midst of these challenges, Edwards rallied the Theatre’s board, organizing an effective committee structure, revamping the organization’s budgeting process, and charging the board with significant fundraising responsibilities. She has played an important role in recruiting board members and setting high expectations for board engagement by promoting a “roll up your sleeves” mindset. Today, Muncie Civic Theatre’s board is comprised of artists, financial professionals, marketing experts, experienced sales people, and community leaders.
Under Edward’s leadership, the Theatre’s revenues have increased dramatically over the past several years. She has challenged the board to take personal ownership of season ticket sales and show promotion, resulting in attendance that grew by 5,000 patrons over a five-year period.
In the midst of this outstanding growth, Edwards has played a leading role in an ambitious capital campaign that is positioning Muncie Civic Theatre for the future. Following an extensive planning process, the Theatre announced a $3 million campaign to preserve the historic Boyce Block building which is home to Muncie Civic Theatre. Edwards helped to mobilize the board into a powerful fundraising team, herself playing a critical role in securing major gifts. Today, with over 80% of the funds raised, the Theatre and adjacent spaces in the building have been transformed. The historic building now features an expanded lobby and concession area, new restrooms, the addition of rehearsal areas, a costume and prop storage room, new theatre seats, and even storefront retail space which can be used to secure rental income to further support the Theatre’s programming. Edwards’ vision, determination, and tenacity were key not only to ensuring these improvements were made to benefit patrons for years to come, but also to ensuring that the Theatre’s operations continued without interruption during the construction process.
Edwards’ affinity for Muncie Civic Theatre runs deep, and her commitment to preserving the Theatre for future generations is rooted in her own experience performing at Muncie Civic Theatre as a child. Ever mindful of these experiences, Edwards has served as an advocate for growing the Theatre’s youth programs which have expanded the age range for youth participants and have added an additional three productions each year. The Theatre has also begun featuring shows for children with special needs and has expanded outreach programs for at-risk youth.
“Ball Brothers Foundation has been a long-time supporter of Muncie Civic Theatre, and we have seen the Theatre undergo many changes over the years,” reflected Jud Fisher, BBF’s president and chief operating officer. “One thing is clear: the leadership that Leigh Edwards has provided during a critical time in Muncie Civic Theatre’s history has been transformative. Her tenacity and unwavering determination to position the Theatre for the future is inspiring. She has empowered the Theatre’s board to fundraise, to thoughtfully expand programming, to build stronger financial systems, and to engage in meaningful strategic planning. BBF received 8 applications for this year’s Fisher Governance Award, and, ultimately, it was Leigh who stood out among the nominees for her vision and persistence.”
In recognition of Leigh Edwards’ leadership, Muncie Civic Theatre was presented with a grant of $10,000 to be used for operations or board training. Edwards was also presented with a glass award handcrafted by Brent Cole, Associate Professor of Art at the Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass at Ball State University.
The Fisher Governance Award honors the memory of Delaware County philanthropists John W. and Janice B. Fisher. Mr. Fisher (1915-2009) brought strong and compassionate leadership to Ball Brothers Foundation during his decade of service as president and chairman. Mrs. Fisher (1916-2010), daughter of industrialist-philanthropist Edmund Burke Ball, shared her husband’s enthusiasm for their community and was a strong advocate for issues related to education and wellness.
With assets totaling approximately $170 million, Ball Brothers Foundation annually makes grants in support of arts and culture, education, the environment, health, human services and public affairs. In addition to grants, the foundation gives two annual awards, the Fisher Governance Award and the Excellence in Teaching Award. The Muncie-based family foundation gives priority to projects and programs that improve the quality of life in BBF’s home city, county and state.