$50K Endowment Honors NC State LIVE’s 50th Anniversary
The Christopher A. Leazer and Heath C. Ramsey Innovation Endowment will help strengthen NC State LIVE and its programming for the next 50 years and beyond.
Christopher Leazer (Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering ’96) started working in the box office for Stewart Theatre during his first year at NC State. At first, he just wanted the job to make some extra money, but his involvement with the box office and NC State LIVE became one of the most impactful experiences of his life.
“The people who worked for NC State LIVE became like an extended family for me in many ways, and I remain close to them today,” Leazer said. “It turned into one of my favorite places on campus, and I loved coming to work there in the student center.”
Today, NC State LIVE continues to be an important part of Leazer’s life. He and his husband, Heath Ramsey, rarely miss a performance, and they recently gave $50,000 to establish the Christopher A. Leazer and Heath C. Ramsey Innovation Endowment. The gift comes just before NC State LIVE’s 50th anniversary season and is just the second named endowment for the department.
“For 50 years, NC State LIVE has had the privilege of bringing passionate, creative artists to NC State and the Triangle to perform in our beautiful theatres and to engage our communities in powerful moments beyond the stage,” said Sharon Moore, director of NC State LIVE. “The performances and deeply personal interactions in workshops and master classes, in casual conversations and lectures have resulted in transformative experiences for both the artists and the participants. We are very grateful for the funds generated by the Christopher A. Leazer and Heath C. Ramsey Innovation Endowment that will support this meaningful and relevant work into the next 50 years and beyond.”
Immersed in the Arts
Leazer has had a passion — and talent — for music from a young age. He was especially influenced by his mother, who took him to musicals and plays, enrolled him in piano lessons and encouraged him to join the band in school. He brought his talents to the Department of Music at NC State, where he played saxophone in the marching, pep, jazz and concert bands. He was also a member of the University Scholars Program (now the University Honors Program), and learned through their community bulletin board about the job opportunity with the box office at Stewart Theatre.
The job ended up giving Leazer far more than some extra spending money. A longtime jazz fan, he got to enjoy performances by some of the best musicians in the business — and even met many of them backstage. Today, a wall in his home is decorated with autographed photos, and he named his dog after one of his all-time favorites, Sonny Rollins. He also benefited from NC State’s wide variety of programming, and enjoyed the work of acting companies who performed at the theatre over the years as well.
“NC State LIVE is an amazing asset for this campus, especially since NC State is primarily STEM focused,” Leazer said. “It gives everyone exposure to some really great artists and performances that they may never have a chance to see elsewhere. This is especially important for the students, since a large number of them are from rural areas where they’ve had very little arts exposure.”
Leazer went on to become acting manager of the box office at Stewart Theatre, and later the assistant manager at Ticket Central. NC State LIVE has also been an important part of his relationship with Ramsey. Some of their first dates were spent at NC State LIVE shows, and they still regularly attend performances today.
“I’m amazed at the quality of the performers that Sharon [Moore] and NC State LIVE have gotten here,” Ramsey said. “There have been a number of people who have come here, like Esperanza Spalding, who have come in here and performed before they’ve gotten big and won awards. I think that’s what makes it such a unique and fantastic environment is that you really do get exposed to amazing artists because you have people who are curating and bringing the best to students here.”
While arts programs were a crucial part of his college experience, Leazer himself followed a career path in technology. Today, he is a senior IT manager for Duke Energy, but he remains highly involved in arts programs at NC State and the broader Triangle community. He served on the former Theatre Endowment Board for several years, including a stint as president. Additionally, he contributed to many Arts NC State fundraisers and other endowments, including the Thompson Hall renovation, the Sharon Moore Endowment and the John Mcllwee Endowment. Most recently, he began his first term on the Friends of Arts NC State (FANS) Board.
Leazer said he and Ramsey chose to establish their endowment fund for NC State LIVE because of the many ways it has benefited them and the community over the years. The innovation endowment will help fund artist residencies, outreach and engagement initiatives, commissions of new artistic works and interdisciplinary programming.
“The work that LIVE does is extremely important for the university and community,” Leazer said. “This includes artist residencies and collaborations with other campus departments and even other Raleigh arts organizations. The outreach they do in the community by offering performances to K-12 schools is also very important. The earlier we can expose children to the arts, the better the world will be.”
Ramsey added that giving to NC State LIVE and other arts programs helps broaden the horizons of STEM students at NC State. It also helps reduce cultural and socioeconomic barriers for students and community members.
“Giving to arts programs like NC State LIVE helps ensure that shows are affordable and accessible to people who don’t necessarily have the money to go to North Carolina Theatre or Durham Performing Arts Center where prices can be more expensive,” Ramsey said. “I see that giving to these programs is a great way of investing back into the student body and into people who can benefit.”
Looking Ahead to a Special Season
This Sunday, Sept. 18, NC State LIVE will kick off its 50th anniversary season with a free block party headlined by Squonk (featuring giant puppets), live prog rock, Fusion Dance Crew, Wolfgang A Cappella, WKNC, t-shirt giveaways, Howling Cow ice cream, cake, Poetry Fox, Scrap Exchange and the Arts Club at NC State. The event will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. on Stafford Commons, the lawn beside Talley Student Union.
The season lineup also includes many returning artists from previous years, such as Kenny Barron and Regina Carter, Daniel Bernard Roumain, and a collaboration by Contra-Tiempo and Arturo O’Farrill. Leazer and Ramsey are especially looking forward to the return of DakhaBrakha, a world-music group from Ukraine.
Visit the NC State LIVE website to learn more about the anniversary season and get show tickets. If you are interested in giving to the Christopher A. Leazer and Heath C. Ramsey Innovation Endowment or making a gift in celebration of NC State LIVE’s 50th anniversary, please contact Peyton Stokley with DASA Development at email@example.com, 919-513-4101 or here.