Gallagher Bluedorn receives $2 million gift for renovation and expansion

Gallagher Bluedorn receives $2 million gift for renovation and expansion

The Pauline R. Barrett Charitable Foundation has invested $2 million in the renovation and expansion of the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center. 

“Pauline was known throughout the Cedar Valley for her philanthropy and volunteerism,” said UNI President Mark A. Nook. “During her lifetime, the university was fortunate to have her support for student scholarships as well as various capital projects across campus. UNI and the Cedar Valley are stronger because of Pauline’s transformational support of her community.”

Barrett, a Waterloo resident who passed away in February of 2018, took a great interest in supporting the areas of education, health and culture. She was a leader in the community through her involvement in numerous community groups and foundations.

“The foundation invested in the Gallagher Bluedorn improvements to carry on Pauline’s legacy of supporting UNI and the performing arts in the Cedar Valley. The Gallagher Bluedorn is a jewel in the Cedar Valley and one that Pauline was very proud of,” said Theresa Hoffman, a member of the Pauline R. Barrett Charitable Foundation grant committee. “Pauline was very committed to UNI and its students, and we feel strongly about continuing the work she started.”

The 20-year-old Gallagher Bluedorn is slated to undergo a $14.9 million renovation and expansion to modernize the space. Originally built to host 140 events and serve up to 14,000 guests annually, the center currently hosts nearly 600 events and more than 115,000 guests each year – operating at ten times its expected capacity.

In recognition of the Barrett foundation’s gift, the newly constructed marquee lounge will be named the Pauline R. Barrett Charitable Foundation Marquee Lounge.

“The marquee lounge is the heart of the entire renovation project. The marquee lounge will be a world class gathering place to match world class performances that take place on our stage,” said Steve Carignan, executive director of the Gallagher Bluedorn.

The proposed space will provide guests with a place to gather with friends for drinks or a light dinner before the show and a place to linger over coffee after the show. The marquee lounge will also serve as a private classroom for the center’s Kaleidoscope participants to meet and interact with authors and actors. Each year, the Gallagher Bluedorn provides opportunities for upwards of 40,000 preschool through 12th grade students to experience a wide range of performing arts at the minimal cost of only $1 a child.

“The Kaleidoscope Series has allowed the Gallagher Bluedorn to serve underserved rural communities of eastern Iowa,” Carignan said. “Our younger audience members can gather in the new lounge space to discuss, think, laugh and really dig into the meaning of a performance. Kaleidoscope participants will be provided with the unique opportunity to learn – firsthand – about theatre and connect with performers.”

“We hope this investment in the Cedar Valley will enhance the experience of the patrons of the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center and increase not only usage of the facility, but increase the number of individuals who are able to enjoy what the Gallagher Bluedorn has to offer,” Hoffman said. “This gift would have resonated with Pauline and she would have been proud to know the number of students that will benefit.”

Construction on the project is slated to begin in the summer of 2022.

The Barrett foundation’s gift was made to the University of Northern Iowa through the UNI Foundation. For more information about the UNI Foundation, visit