BOISE — Philanthropist, longtime Boise State supporter and patron of the arts Velma Morrison died Thursday at the age of 92.
Morrison's contributions to Boise State include the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts, located on the north edge of campus.
“We are saddened by the loss of Velma Morrison, who was a true friend and supporter of the Boise State community,” Boise State President Bob Kustra said in a statement Sunday. “She was like the guardian angel of the Morrison Center — she guided it and protected it and shepherded it so future generations could enjoy it and continue to learn from and be inspired by its productions.”
The university awarded Morrison a Silver Medallion in 1984, its highest recognition for service, and an honorary doctorate in 2010. She was also named an honorary lifetime member of the Boise State Foundation in 2004.
Morrison married Harry Morrison, who co-founded Morrison-Knudsen Company with Morris Knudsen, in 1959. The company helped build the Hoover Dam, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Velma Morrison served on the board of directors at MK until age 70, when members were forced to resign.
Harry Morrison had a vision for a performing arts center in Boise's Ann Morrison Park, which is named after his first wife. But two bond issues in the mid 1970s failed.
After Harry Morrison died in 1971, Velma Morrison worked to fulfill his vision for a performing arts center. John Keiser, president of Boise State from 1978 to 1991, suggested putting it on the university's campus along the Boise River.
The Harry Morrison Foundation, chaired by Velma Morrison, made a $6.5 million contribution to the project, which also received more than $5 million appropriated from the Idaho Legislature and $3.7 million in pledges and gifts from the community including a $1 million gift from Jack and Esther Simplot.
The 2,000-seat Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts opened April 7, 1984. The venue hosts performance artists from around the world in addition to Boise State's departments of music and theatre arts.
“Velma Morrison was a true friend of Boise and a revered figure in our city's arts community,” Boise Mayor David Bieter said in a statement Sunday. “Boise has lost one of its greatest benefactors, but her legacy will live on through the Morrison Center and the many other artists and projects she so generously supported.”