Charitable Estate Planning
Roger L. Stevens Biography
Roger L. Stevens
March 12, 1910 - February 2, 1998
Roger Lacey Stevens, known in Washington, DC as the man who built the Kennedy Center, was a major force in America's cultural life for more than forty years. His work on behalf of the performing arts not only enriched the cultural life of our nation's capital, but also had a far-reaching impact on the arts nationwide.
Already a highly successful real estate broker, Mr. Stevens backed his first Broadway production in 1949. The production of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" lost $40,000, but received excellent reviews. Mr. Stevens went on to become one of this country's greatest theatrical producers, presenting over 250 plays and musicals including West Side Story, Bus Stop, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Man for All Seasons and Tea and Sympathy.
After an illustrious career on Broadway, Mr. Stevens came to Washington in 1961 at the request of President John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy asked him to help establish the National Cultural Center, which later would be named in honor of the slain president -- The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As Chairman of the Kennedy Center's Board of Trustees from 1961-1988, Mr. Stevens led the Center's fundraising efforts and guided its programming. It is reported that in his capacity as chairman, Mr. Stevens raised roughly $150 million from Congress and corporate and individual donors for the construction, operation and endowment of the Center.
After President Kennedy's death, Mr. Stevens became President
Lyndon B. Johnson's special assistant on the arts and played a pivotal
role in persuading Congress to create the National Endowment for the Arts,
which represented the government's first attempt to become a national
Mr. Stevens, a modest and self-effacing man, was recognized in 1998 as both a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner and a Kennedy Center Honoree. He continued to serve as an inspiration to all those associated with the Center and the performing arts in America until his death on February 2, 1998.
In the Kennedy Center's Hall of States there is a bust of Roger Steven's under which the words "unstoppable visionary" are inscribed. This is a fitting tribute to the man whose passion for the performing arts and unwavering determination made the dream of the Kennedy Center a reality.