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Wasn't 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.

WAMC's new 'Performing Arts Studio'Albany's newest arts milieu is a 1920's-era structure that sits catty-corner to WAMC's 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.
 

Linda Norris ^ Above: WAMC's new Performing Arts Studio, formerly the State Bank of Albany. 
 
 
 

<<<< 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 the '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."

Linda Norris AuditoriumA 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 WAMC 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).

[See related story:  Chartock takes a hike]
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 the funds, 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 grant.

Ribbon-cutting 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 Gerald D. Jennings and a possible appearance by Mr. Chartock's co-host on the Me and Mario radio program, New York's ex-Governor Mario M. Cuomo.

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