Long-Time Supporter, Founding Member and Arts Advocate Honored
On Monday, January 30, 2023 Chandler Center for the Arts (CCA), Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) and the City of Chandler held a small reception to honor the renaming of the CCA’s main theatre after long-time supporter and founding member of the Center – Steena Murray.
Last year, Chandler Cultural Foundation, the not-for-profit that oversees programming and operations at the CCA, submitted a request for the naming of the main stage to both Chandler Unified School District and the City of Chandler in appreciation of Murray’s lifetime of support to the community. The CUSD Governing Board and Chandler City Council unanimously passed resolutions approving the name in March 2022.
“Steena was a founding member on the Chandler Education Foundation Board and has a passion for young people having access to education,” says CUSD Superintendent Frank Narducci. “Having her name associated with a theatre that serves students and Chandler citizens is a fitting honor for someone with such incredible commitment to her community.”
Murray has provided incredible support to the Chandler Cultural Foundation (CCF) and Chandler Center for the Arts since becoming a founding member of the Board of Directors when the facility opened in 1989. Today, she continues to serve on the board, acting as the organization’s treasurer. She has worked diligently for more than 30 years to make Chandler Center for the Arts the community gathering space it has become.
“I feel fortunate to have served on the Chandler Cultural Foundation Board with Steena,” says David Woodruff, Chair of the CCF Board. “Her generosity in both time and money has been extraordinary. Steena has a passion for the arts. Our community has benefited greatly from her passion.”
Murray’s considerable financial contributions to the CCF make up the largest continuous gift from an individual philanthropist in its history. She has sponsored student participation in youth arts education through Vision Kids and Connecting Kids programs since their inception. In the last decade her support has provided funding for 12,870 youth to participate in these programs.
For 11 years, she was the presenting sponsor for the Zoppé Family Circus, bringing joy to tens of thousands of families, in addition to 6,000 free tickets to Title I students served by Chandler Unified District. Murray is also a member of the Jerry Brooks Legacy Society, having committed a gift to the Cultural Foundation in her estate planning.
“I can’t think of an individual who has provided more contributions to the enrichment of the community through the appreciation and support of the arts,” says Michelle Mac Lennan, General Manager of the CCA. “Steena is more than a donor, she is a fan. She has attended nearly every performance at the CCA. There is truly no one – not even staff – who has seen more shows in our theatre than Steena.”
“While Steena’s reach within the community goes beyond her commitment to the arts,” says Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke. “It is the generosity and vision of such a dedicated citizen that ensures the richness created and experienced within the walls of the CCA remains for generations.”
Murray is a native of Chandler. Her parents, Frands and Bodil Thude, immigrated from Denmark to be closer to family. In 1935, they purchased 160 acres east of Price Road and south of Galveston for a dairy and were among the original farming families in Chandler. Ellen Kristie “Steena” Thude Murray was born shortly after on December 6, 1936.
After graduating from Chandler High School in 1954, she attended the University of Arizona, graduating in 1959 with a major in business. She lived on the East Coast for a few years and moved back to Chandler in 1962, living in her hometown ever since. The Thude family and their contribution to early Chandler has been commemorated with a city park, located where the farm used to sit.