Center for the Performing Arts names 2017 Distinguished Service Award winners

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State has named Patricia Best and Thomas Ray as its 2017 Distinguished Service Award winners.

“Patricia and Tom are exemplary patrons, donors and advocates for the performing arts,” said George Trudeau, center director. “They attend many performances each season and often bring friends to share with them the joy of live performances.”

Upon meeting 30 years ago, Best said, she and Ray were pleased to discover a mutual appreciation of theater and jazz. That interest led the Ferguson Township couple to sponsor jazz performances at the Center for the Performing Arts, as well as to become center members at the Leadership Circle and Jazz Train levels. In the past two seasons, they have sponsored performances by Maria Schneider Orchestra and Bria Skonberg Quintet. They’ve also signed up to sponsor a concert by a jazz vocalist in the coming season.

“We are pleased to join with so many others in supporting the ongoing development of opportunities for Penn State and our community to have the special access to the arts that the Center for the Performing Arts provides every year,” Best said.

Best worked for State College Area School District for more than 30 years and rose through the ranks from teacher, to guidance counselor to administrative professional. She retired in 2009 after 10 years as the school district’s superintendent, during which time she was an avid supporter of arts education.

She served as president of Leadership Centre County, was a chair and a board member of the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County, and was on the board of the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. She was a president of the Penn State College of Education Alumni Society Board and received the 2009 Penn State Renaissance Award for service to the university and community. She also was a member of the Center for the Performing Arts Community Advisory Council from 2008 to 2014.

Best serves as vice chair of the Mount Nittany Health System Board. In addition, she is a member of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Centre County and Discovery Space Children’s Science Museum boards.

Ray worked at Raytheon in a variety of capacities, including 29 years in business development. He retired in 2007 after more than 39 years of service.

Best and Ray are supporters of Green Drake Gallery & Arts Center in Millheim. They also established, through the Centre County Community Foundation, a State College Area School District endowment to support annual faculty grants for instructional innovation.

They travel extensively and tend to incorporate live music, theater and dance into their experiences. They’ve taken tango lessons in Buenos Aires, Argentina; enrolled in a week of seminars and performances with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at Chautauqua Institution in New York; and sat witness to some of the world’s top vocalists at La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy. They also return annually to New Orleans to hear the region’s notable jazz, Cajun and zydeco music.

“The arts have been part of human history from its earliest ages through drawings, stories, songs, pottery, dance, plays and musical instruments,” Best said. “So, the question for us is not ‘Why invest in the arts?’ but ‘How could we not?’”

The Distinguished Service Award has been given annually since 1996.

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Last Updated May 03, 2017