it supposed to be called the
'Linda Norris Performing Arts Center' ?
Chartock breaks pledge to cancer survivor
by G. M. Heller
Thursday, January 31, 2002
Last year, it was announced on-the-air and in
the press that WAMC Inc.'s proposed new performing arts center building
was to be named after Great Barrington resident Linda Norris.
newest arts milieu is a 1920's-era structure that sits catty-corner to
Central Avenue studios. It originally housed the old State Bank of
Albany. Its latest incarnation was supposed to be called the Linda
Norris Performing Arts Center.
^ Above: WAMC's new Performing Arts Studio, formerly the State Bank of
<<<< Linda Norris, cancer survivor and
wife of Robert Norris, vice-chairman of WAMC's board of trustees.
Photo: Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff.
At least that was what Alan S. Chartock, WAMC's chairman-for-life,
said he was going to name it. That was last year. That
was when Mr. Chartock was begging everyone to chip in to his latest pet
project -- begging every listener within earshot of WAMC's broadcast
signal and anyone within delivery distance of The Berkshire Eagle.
That was also when Mr. Chartock, in his I Publius column in The
Eagle, went public and tearfully told the Berkshire world that his
good friend and neighbor Mrs. Norris had recently been diagnosed with a
form of cancer. He said that of all his good friends (everyone Mr.
Chartock writes about seems to be his good friend), Mrs. Norris certainly
was one who richly deserved the honor of having her name grace WAMC's
proposed new performance center. He indicated he would make it happen.
Chartock pulls an about-face
Now though, it appears Mr. Chartock has reversed himself on that original
pledge to the Norrises and the public. Rather than honoring cancer-survivor
Mrs. Norris and her family by giving her name to the performance center
building, Mr. Chartock apparently now deems it sufficient that the woman's
moniker should just grace a large room inside. That will be called
'Linda Norris Auditorium'. The building itself
is to be christened the
WAMC Performing Arts Studio.
Calls made Thursday to Mr. Chartock's WAMC office seeking answers
found his personal secretary claiming that Mr. Chartock was not at the
station that day, but was teaching at SUNY. Calls then made to Mr.
Chartock's office at SUNY-Albany were met with a recorded greeting which
stated that Professor Chartock "is currently on sabbatical."
view of Linda Norris Auditorium from a second floor control room.
Photo: Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff.
When finally reached by phone at WAMC on Thursday evening, Mr.
Chartock refused to answer any questions about the naming of the new performance
center, referring all questions to his WAMC subordinate, David
Galletly. Mr. Chartock then abruptly hung-up on his caller.
In that I Publius column last year explaining his decision to
name the building after Mrs. Norris, Mr. Chartock stated that Mrs. Norris
and her husband Robert Norris had a long-standing commitment to
and that theirs was a tradition of helping whenever the station was in
need. Mr. Chartock indicated that naming WAMC's performance
center in honor of Mrs. Norris was something he was proud to do, that it
was the right thing to do, and that the public should support the fund-raising
effort for the project.
The Norrises live around the corner from the Chartocks in Great Barrington.
Mr. Norris has for years been vice-chairman of WAMC's board of trustees.
He is a member of the executive committee which approves Mr. Chartock's
salary increases year after year (Mr. Chartock now receives over $100,000
per year in salary and benefits from the WAMC treasury).
Mr. Norris is an heir of D.W. 'Fritz' Norris, an astute Marshalltown,
Iowa businessman who, with others in 1904, purchased a local manufacturing
company which produced a then popular style of coal furnace. The
seller of the business was David Lennox, the brilliant machinist
who had perfected the furnace and founded the firm, but was now tired of
the furnace business. In time, under the stewardship of Fritz Norris,
then son John, and currently grandson John Jr., Lennox
International Inc. grew to become one of the largest privately-held
corporations in the world. In summer 1999, the firm finally went
public, and presently trades on NYSE under the symbol LII.
Robert Norris' family controls the Lennox Foundation,
and he holds a seat on its board. That foundation reportedly agreed
last year to donate to WAMC, Inc. a grant of $300,000 for
the station's then-proposed performing arts center. In order to receive
WAMC had to commit to matching within three years an
amount in contributions equal to the original grant.
The Lennox grant, seed money for the subsequent pledges and largess
that came WAMC's way for its new building, was no doubt part of
the calculus behind Mr. Chartock's announcement last year that he intended
to name the performance center in honor of Mrs. Norris. The realities
of the fund-raising game are such that naming buildings in honor of large
donors is a common practice for charities. It promises recognition,
a permanent honorarium and, let's face it, cache for the person
whose name is up in lights, while giving tax-exempt organizations the necessary
capital for large projects.
For WAMC, the Lennox grant also gave a boost to WAMC's
'on-commission' underwriting sales staff which now had fresh opportunity
and rationale to approach underwriters -- the sales spiel this time being
that WAMC needed additional underwriting so as not to lose the Lennox
ceremonies at the Linda Norris Auditorium in the WAMC Performing
Arts Studio are scheduled for Monday morning, February 11. Local
dignitaries slated to join Mr. Chartock on the dais include Albany Mayor
D. Jennings and a possible appearance by Mr. Chartock's co-host on
the Me and Mario radio program, New York's ex-Governor
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