MONDAY 9-23-2013

Sep 23, 2013 -- 5:13pm

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9-23-2013 PODCASTS - 6AM    7AM    8AM


7:10 Dr. John R. Lott Jr., noted researcher (remember "More Guns, Less Crime"?) and now he's turning his attention to the judiciary. "Dumbing Down The Courts" - How Politics Keep the Smartest Job off the Bench.

8:45 Ray Senkel - Oregon Liberty Zones member, and a recap of Saturday's "Defending Rural America" event in Jo County.

8:10 Dr. Dennis Powers "Visiting Past And Present" and today's profile is James Collier:

James Collier, the Patron of the Performing Arts

By Dennis Powers

Born in 1938, James (Jim) Morrison Collier grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, and graduated from Roosevelt High School. He earned bachelor and master degrees respectively from the University of Iowa and Drake University (1970). Jim taught English in Wisconsin and California in his 31-year career, including twenty years at alternative high schools for troubled youths. Considered a kind and gentle man, he took on the role of a philanthropist after inheriting what was called a “significant” amount of money from his mother and stepfather, Mary and Raymond Baker.

Raymond Baker met Pioneer Hi-Bred founder Henry Wallace in 1926. Fascinated by Wallace’s work with corn hybrids, Baker two years later became Hi-Bred’s second employee. As Pioneer Hi-Bred’s lead plant breeder for 43 years, Raymond Baker developed many of the company’s hybrid seed corns. He is credited with providing the scientific groundwork in the 1930s that substantially increased corn yields around the world and brought Pioneer Hi-Bred to becoming the world’s largest seed-corn company. He retired in 1971 as a corporate vice president and died in 1999 at age 92. In 1999, DuPont bought for cash and stock the remaining 80% of Pioneer Hi-Bred that it didn’t already own.

In the early 2000s, Jim Collier made “generous” gifts to the Des Moines Opera, Drake University, Des Moines Symphony, and Roosevelt High School. He donated Steinway pianos, funded scholarships and renovations at Roosevelt High School, endowed care for the elderly at Wesley Acres (a retirement and assisted-living-care complex in Des Moines), and funded an Apprentice Artist program with the Des Moines Opera.

Drake is a midsized, private university in Des Moines, Iowa. Among this support, he and his brother John created multiple scholarship funds and a professorship in the Drake School of Education in memory of his mother, Drake alumna Mary Collier Baker. Among different gifts, he donated a large amount for the Collier Heritage Room in Drake’s Cowles Library. In 2006, he was nominated as the Outstanding Philanthropist of Central Iowa.

With a deep interest in classical music and the performing arts, it was natural for Jim Collier to be drawn to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (“OSF”) and Rogue Valley. His Master’s thesis was written on Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” and about the same time, he began trips to OSF to see plays and “bring Shakespeare home” to his students. After his retirement from teaching, Collier in April 2003 moved to the Rogue Valley Manor in Medford. Once settling here, he became a major benefactor of the arts.

He made numerous donations over time, but then increased these to where he was the driving financial force with the Camelot Theatre, a new opera company, and the Craterian, among others that included donations to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He jumpstarted the fundraising for the new Camelot Theatre in February 2010 with a substantial gift. Jim donated further to ensure that the new theatre was constructed; in appreciation, the Camelot’s new 164-seat facility was named the James Morrison Collier Theatre. On opening night in June 2011, Collier dressed as a king and made an entrance to say, “Long live Camelot!” to the audience.

Prior to then, Jim was the major benefactor to the Rogue Opera. His support was instrumental in not only keeping opera vibrant in the Valley, but also made first-class productions possible in this region. In mid-August of 2011, Brava! Opera Theater and the James M. Collier Young Artist Program came to reality due to his support and brought about opera workshops and more assistance. The National James M. Collier Young Artist Vocal Competition is held in San Francisco with two winner concerts in Medford. Jim also earned the affectionate nickname of “The Piano Man” by donating seven pianos over the last years (three concert grand pianos and four uprights) that included one for the Rogue Valley Manor. 

The Craterian was next. In August 2012, the long-time Craterian Theater supporter gave it a “very substantial,” but undisclosed, amount of money. In appreciation, the board renamed it as the “Craterian Theater at The Collier Center for the Performing Arts.” He previously donated to the Craterian the new LED marquee that’s seen from Central Avenue and a Yamaha grand piano--at least, that’s the publicly announced gifts so far.

With his support of the Rogue Valley Symphony, Rogue Valley Chorale, Southern Oregon Repertory Singers, Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon, and more (including what’s already been mentioned), Collier-supported groups are playing throughout the region, including at the Collier Center, SOU’s Music Recital Hall, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and the Camelot. The Executive Director of the Craterian at its re-naming was quoted: “I’m not sure who he isn’t supporting.” And Southern Oregon is so much the better for this.  

Sources: “Drake University: Drake honors outstanding alumni achievements, loyalty,” May 31, 2006, at Gift to Drake University; “Orchard Place: Donor Stories” at Jim Collier Background; “ISU names center for leading plant breeder,” High Plains JournalFather’s Background; Bill Varble, “‘Sweeney’ brings life to Camelot’s new stage,” Mail Tribune, June 26, 2011, at Camelot Donations; Bill Varble, “Craterian renamed for donor,” Mail Tribune, August 31, 2012, at Craterian Renaming. See generally, “Rogue Opera,” at Rogue Opera and “Brava! Opera Theatre: Press Releases,” at More Opera Donations.  

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