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Home > News & Events > Press Releases > 2008 > Amphitheater donors honored at Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College

Press Releases

Amphitheater donors honored at Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College

July 15, 2008

(L to R) Mary Louise Jackson, Elijah “Zeke” Jackson, John Ruffino, executive director of Northern Virginia Community College’s Educational Foundation, and John Ritzert Jr., president of the Educational Foundation, unveiled a plaque honoring the major contributors to the Mary Louise Jackson Amphitheater on the grounds of the Manassas Campus.

On July 14, contributors to the Mary Louise Jackson Amphitheater were honored during a ceremony at the Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. The event featured the unveiling of a plaque listing the major benefactors.

“Thank you for joining us in this beautiful setting,” Provost Hortense Hinton said in her welcoming remarks at the amphitheater. “There’s something magical about spending a summer evening relaxing with friends and I hope you are enjoying it as much as I am.”

Hinton introduced special guests Mary Louise and Elijah “Zeke” Jackson, Sen. and Mrs. Charles Colgan, Kathryn Ann MacLane, Jim Fabian, Charles and Gail Kettlewell, Shawn Roach, and Floyd and Barbara Williams.

Several College Board members attended the ceremony, including James White who represents the City of Manassas and Robert C. Gaskill Sr., representing Prince William County. College officials included President Robert G. Templin Jr., Educational Foundation President John Ritzert Jr., and Educational Foundation Executive Director John Ruffino.

Donations for the project came from large and small companies, civic organizations, local jurisdictions, families and individuals. Early in the fundraising phase, NavCom Systems donated $185,000 to cover construction costs, and the company’s chief executive officer, Zeke Jackson, named the amphitheater for his wife, Mary Louise, who is well known in the education community after serving on the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges for eight years, including a term as board chair in 2002-2003.

“We are extremely thankful for everyone who worked together to make this dream a reality,” Hinton said. “For a long time, we have wanted to create a permanent reflection of our appreciation for the community’s support. We hope the plaque we are unveiling tonight conveys, in some small way, how grateful we are to have such wonderful friends.”

The Jacksons, Ritzert and Ruffino unveiled the rectangular bronze plaque that features a bust of Mary Louise Jackson and names the major benefactors: NavCom Systems, GTE Foundation, Manassas Rotary Club, Kathryn Ann MacLane, Ross, France and Ratliff, Century 21 Capital Realty Corp., Peter Chase and Associates, Jim and Yolanda Fabian, Dave and Caroline Felt, Dr. Wilfred Howsmon, IBM, Charles and Gail Kettlewell, Manassas Ice and Fuel, Merchant’s Tire and Auto Centers, Nikon, Inc., The Pentagon Pacesetters, Planning and Services Corporation, Rector Construction, Skippy’s Trucking, Strayer University Education Foundation, Weichert Realtors, Vulcan Materials, Barbara L. Williams, and an anonymous donor.

After the plaque was unveiled, Mary Louise Jackson reminisced about her life and the many blessings that have come her way. She called her husband, Zeke, her “greatest cheerleader” and said he could have named the amphitheater after himself but he humbled himself and named it after her. Mentioning some of the good deeds Zeke has been involved in, Mrs. Jackson said, “He has found his calling and gives so others may receive.”

Mrs. Jackson challenged the audience to discover what is important in life and asked where they are putting their efforts.  “Inside each of us is greatness. Pass that greatness on to the next generation,” she said.

Before the evening ended, attendees enjoyed a preview of “The Gray Ghost,” a Civil War drama in production at the amphitheater.

The Mary Louise Jackson Amphitheater is a fully equipped professional venue for performing artists. The amphitheater features bench seating for 500 people with additional lawn space, professional sound and lighting systems, dressing rooms, and convenient parking. The facility is available for music concerts, theater productions, dance recitals, festivals, company picnics, school graduations and similar uses. For more information about the amphitheater, call Jim Fabian at 703-257-6632.

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Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America’s largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 60,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College’s Web site,