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Auburn’s Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center unveils Bill and Carol Ham Amphitheatre at special ceremony

Former Auburn mayor, first lady were integral to bringing performing arts to Plains
Published: November 03, 2022 | Updated: November 04, 2022
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The Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center at Auburn University announced today the official naming of the Bill and Carol Ham Amphitheatre with a special afternoon dedication ceremony. 

Nearly 200 guests, including local dignitaries, university officials and friends and family members, joined the Hams in celebrating the occasion at the Gogue Center. The new name, which was approved by the Auburn Board of Trustees in September, honors the Hams’ profound service to the community and their transformative impact on the cultural landscape of the university, the City of Auburn and the state of Alabama.

“Carol and I are honored to have our names on this wonderful amphitheatre,” said Bill Ham, Auburn’s mayor for two decades. “The Gogue Center is at the forefront of providing performing arts to Auburn and the surrounding area, and as a community, we are treated to dozens of wonderful events, including ones that teach the arts to Auburn youth, surrounding communities’ students and students at Auburn University. It’s a place where the city and the university interface in the same way the community supports university sporting events.

“We know it’s here because of the vision of Jay Gogue and hard work by many people, many of whom are here today. Having an event like this is a humbling experience I can’t quite describe.”

Following remarks, Gogue Center executive director Christopher Heacox and Mindy Street, director of development, presented the Hams with a commissioned illustration of the amphitheatre created by Auburn alumna and Gogue Center volunteer Betsy Logan. A commemorative marker bearing the amphitheatre’s new name was later revealed near the venue’s entrance.

“What an honor it is to be here today and recognize the tremendous leadership and lasting support that Bill and Carol Ham have provided for the great city of Auburn and all within this community for so many years,” said Bob Dumas, president pro tempore of the Auburn Board of Trustees and a lifelong friend of Bill Ham. “Today, we celebrate their longstanding contributions and are doing so in a truly fitting location—a community formed where academia and performance intersect, growing our neighborly bond to one another in fellowship, education and artistic expression. Bill and Carol have and continue to be stalwart supporters of the arts and Auburn University, and we can’t thank them enough for their unwavering commitment to the City of Auburn.

“On behalf of the Auburn University Board of Trustees, I am so pleased to see this naming for two Auburn alumni who exemplify our beloved university’s Creed and its land-grant mission of giving back to others.”

An Auburn native and lifelong resident, Bill Ham was elected to the Auburn City Council in 1986. Two years later, he was elected mayor, a role he held for five consecutive terms. Support for education and diversification of the local economy were chief among his priorities while in office.

“One of my goals as mayor was to continue to improve our town and gown relationship,” Bill Ham said. “Jay Gogue and I shared a goal to do a better and more efficient job for the city and the university through mutual support. I am thrilled that Chris [Roberts] and Ron [Anders] will continue this great relationship.”

During his tenure as mayor, Auburn maintained one of the highest-rated school systems in Alabama, and with the addition of more than 3,000 high technology-based jobs, the city began to flourish as an economic powerhouse for the region.

“I’ve never been around somebody who was so focused to do the right thing for the right reason,” Auburn Mayor Ron Anders said. “Every day Bill Ham got up, he was trying to make Auburn better, and he worked for Auburn everywhere, all the time. Bill Ham was all about making Auburn the best it could be, and he worked tirelessly.

“As we celebrate the naming of this amphitheatre for Bill and Carol, I think it’s perfect because it’s a representation of the partnerships that Bill fostered in our community. It’s representative of his full commitment to our city and our university, and it’s a place where our families can have a great time and celebrate cherished memories together.”

Bill Ham worked tirelessly to strengthen the partnership between the city and the university as well. He was instrumental in the creation of the Auburn Research Park, expansion of the Auburn University Regional Airport and consolidation of the city and university police forces. He also was a driving force behind the city’s original gift made in support of the Gogue Center’s construction and its naming of the City of Auburn Lawn and Porch.

“Bill and Carol were early advocates of building this performing arts center here in Auburn,” Auburn University President Christopher B. Roberts said. “They understood the positive cultural and economic impact it would have for our campus and our entire community. They also knew it would enhance the reputation of our town and contribute to a higher quality of life for our citizens.

“Bill and Carol, we thank you for your love of our city and for your love of Auburn University, and I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to honor Bill’s and Carol’s commitment and dedication to our community than to have our amphitheatre bear their name. The Bill and Carol Amphitheatre will long be a reminder of their legacy that I hope serves as an inspiration for others of the impact that can be had when you live your life in the service of others.”

Carol Ham served as an educator with Auburn City Schools for more than 30 years. In addition to her time spent with students in the classroom, she organized an after-school tutoring program at the Boykin Center for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County for nearly a decade.

She continues to serve the community in numerous volunteer roles, including as president of the house corporation of the Alpha Beta chapter of Chi Omega, and assisting with multiple disaster recovery and COVID-19 relief efforts led by East Alabama Medical Center.

The Hams both earned bachelor’s degrees in education from the university in 1977, with Carol attaining a master’s degree in education in 1979.

The couple has a deep appreciation for the arts and are champions for the positive cultural and economic impacts the arts provide. They were early advocates for the Gogue Center and remain passionate participants in its continued success—as season subscribers, sponsors and donors.

Bill was a founding member of the Gogue Center’s development council and currently serves on its engagement council. Committed philanthropists, the couple also fund an endowed scholarship awarded by the Auburn University College of Education and are supporters of the Spencer Cancer Center at East Alabama Medical Center.

“There was phenomenal interaction between the city and Auburn University during the time I was here,” said former Auburn University President Jay Gogue, who was joined by his wife, Susie, as speakers at the celebratory occasion. “Bill and Carol are wonderful people, and this recognition is absolutely appropriate. On behalf of all of us, we say thank you.”

The 17,000-square-foot, 5,000-capacity amphitheatre opened in August 2019 along with the Walter Stanley and Virginia Katharyne Evans Woltosz Theatre. The Gogue Center introduced a new amphitheatre series as part of its 2022-23 performing arts season.

The series’ premiere lineup included performances this fall by Vince Gill and Wendy Moten; Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit; and Tab Benoit and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band will join Motown legend Smokey Robinson to close the series on Saturday, April 22.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.

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