Roger L. Stevens

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Roger L. Stevens
Roger L. Stevens.jpg
Roger Stevens
Born Roger Lacey Stevens
March 12, 1910
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died February 2, 1998(1998-02-02) (aged 87)
Washington, D.C., United States
Cause of death Pneumonia
Nationality United States
Alma mater University of Michigan
Occupation theatrical producer and real estate developer
Spouse(s) Christine Gesell
Children Christabel Stevens Gough

Roger Lacey Stevens (March 12, 1910 – February 2, 1998) was an American theatrical producer, arts administrator, and a real estate executive. He was the founding Chairman of both the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (1961), and National Endowment for the Arts (1965).

Biography[edit]

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Stevens was educated at The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) in Wallingford, Connecticut. He was about to enter Harvard University but his father's financial difficulties ended his plan. He attended the University of Michigan for a year before dropping out. He then worked on a Ford assembly line and at a gas station during the Depression.[1]

In 1934, he joined a Detroit real estate firm. By 1937, before he was 30, his real estate work had made him a small fortune of about $50,000. He led a syndicate (along with Ben Tobin and Alfred R. Glancy)[2] that bought the Empire State Building in 1951 for $51 million, then a titanic sum; he more than doubled his investment when he sold his interest in the building three years later.[3]

In politics, he made a mark as chairman of the Democratic Party's finance committee in 1956.[4]

He produced more than 100 plays and musicals over his career, including West Side Story, Bus Stop, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. In 1971, he received Special Tony Award for his body of work. He became known for introducing plays by such adventurous writers as Harold Pinter, Arthur Kopit and Tom Stoppard.[5]

Stevens was the General Administrator of the Actors Studio as well as one of the producers of the Playwrights Company, a member of the board of the American National Theatre and Academy (ANTA), and one of the members of a Broadway producing company he founded in 1953 with Robert Whitehead, and Robert Dowling. In 1961, he was asked by President John F. Kennedy to help establish a National Cultural Center,[6] and became Chairman of Board of Trustees of what was eventually named the Kennedy Center from 1961 to 1988.

In 1965, he received an appointment from President Lyndon Johnson as first Chairman of the National Council on the Arts later named the National Endowment for the Arts.

In 1986, Stevens was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[7]

On January 13, 1988, Stevens was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan. In 1988, he was also awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Personal life[edit]

Stevens was married to Christine Gesell Stevens, founder of the Animal Welfare Institute in 1951. He served as the organization's treasurer until his death in 1998. They had a daughter, Christabel.

He had his first heart attack in 1970. In 1993, he suffered strokes that left him partly paralyzed and deprived him of much of his speech.

Roger Stevens died of pneumonia on February 2, 1998 at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.[8] He was 87.

Stage productions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pace, Eric. "Roger L. Stevens, Real Estate Magnate, Producer and Fund-Raiser, Is Dead at 87". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 14 March 2017. 
  2. ^ New York Times: "Ben Tobin, 92, Investor in Hotels And in Real Estate" by Wolfgang Saxon June 16, 1996
  3. ^ Pace, Eric. "Roger L. Stevens, Real Estate Magnate, Producer and Fund-Raiser, Is Dead at 87". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 14 March 2017. 
  4. ^ Pace, Eric. "Roger L. Stevens, Real Estate Magnate, Producer and Fund-Raiser, Is Dead at 87". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 14 March 2017. 
  5. ^ Pace, Eric. "Roger L. Stevens, Real Estate Magnate, Producer and Fund-Raiser, Is Dead at 87". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 14 March 2017. 
  6. ^ "Explore the Center, History of the Living Memorial". The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Retrieved 4 September 2017. 
  7. ^ "9 Stage Veterans Enter Theater Hall of Fame". New York Times. April 22, 1986. 
  8. ^ Pace, Eric. "Roger L. Stevens, Real Estate Magnate, Producer and Fund-Raiser, Is Dead at 87". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 14 March 2017. 

External links[edit]