The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts officially opened on Friday, March 24, 2003 with an inaugural gala hosted by Robert C. Khayat, Chancellor of the University of Mississippi and starring Morgan Freeman as master of ceremonies. A cast of University alumni appeared together with a dozen university ensembles from the departments of Music and Theatre.
The Ford Center became a reality in 1998 with a gift of $20 million from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation. The State of Mississippi contributed $500,000 for initial planning followed by an appropriation of $10 million for construction of the Ford Center. The construction was completed in December of 2002.
Since that time, the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation has contributed funds to purchase land for the Gertrude Ford Boulevard, for support staff positions, programming and to support a growing live radio broadcasting initiative. The Ford Center operations are largely funded by private contributions.
The Ford Center houses an average of 150 events annually. It is the centerpiece of the University‚s cultural and scholarly mission to present the finest in the performing arts and visiting lecturers. Prince Edward, the King of Jordan, Janet Reno, Cornell West, James Earl Jones, Thomas Friedman are among a growing list of authors and noted intellectuals that have appeared in the Ford Center. Morgan Freeman, Hal Holbrook, Art Garfunkel, Marty Stuart, The Blind Boys of Alabama, B.B. King are only a few of the performers that have appeared on the stage of the Ford Center in a vigorous schedule of performances that also includes national tours of Broadway shows.