Woltjen addressed St. Charles Parish School Board members, St. Charles Parish Public School administrators and faculty, government officials, parents, students, the Lafon family and members of the community who attended the formal opening ceremonies.
“This state-of-the-art facility will serve as an educational and cultural hub for students, the community and the region,” Woltjen said. “It is a pleasure for Shell to continue its support of the St. Charles Parish Public School System. This gift speaks to the confidence Shell has in the public school system and school board to carry out the common goals we share. We all want the best for our children and the best for our community as well as an enhanced quality of life now and in the future.”
Emphasizing Shell’s long history in Norco and in St. Charles Parish, as well as its commitment to supporting education and investment in the area’s youth, Woltjen noted the company’s belief in the importance of education.
“The roots of success originate in educational excellence and the ability to prepare today’s children to enter tomorrow’s workplace,” he said. “Recognizing that the children of our employees, our neighbors and their families will utilize this facility for generations to come, we wanted to identify an opportunity to be part of this endeavor.”
St. Charles Parish Public Schools Superintendent Felecia Gomez-Walker expressed gratitude for Shell’s contribution.
"I want to personally thank Shell for the tremendous gift it has given the school system. The partnership between St. Charles Parish Public Schools and Shell Norco over the years has always been strong. The funding of an endowment for the Lafon Performing Arts Center is unmistakably the most significant contribution from industry that has ever been made to the school system. It also has special meaning to our school system and community as it elevates arts education and appreciation. We are extremely proud of this facility and the opportunities it provides for our students and citizens. Shell can be proud and confident that its purpose and presence will be clearly evident," said Gomez-Walker.
According to Woltjen, the Shell endowment represents a commitment of a $5 million sponsorship of the Dr. Rodney R. Lafon Performing Arts Center to the St. Charles for Parish Public School System over a five-year period.
Ideally, Shell’s initial contribution to this endowment will prompt an annual fundraising campaign where by others will help to grow the fund, resulting in positive impacts to the center.
Through the endowment gift, the 1,304-seat theatre within the Dr. Rodney R. Lafon Performing Arts Center will be named ‘The Shell Theatre’ for an initial 20-year period. At the end of the twentieth year, a minimum annual promissory gift of $50,000.00 will be made to the endowment maintaining the naming rights in perpetuity.
The $34 million, 69,000 square foot facility, named in honor of former St. Charles Parish Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Rodney R. Lafon, was constructed as part of a bond issue approved by St. Charles Parish voters in 2015.
In addition to the 1,304-seat Shell Theatre, the Dr. Lafon Performing Arts Center features a 200-seat black box theatre, a large dance studio, educational wing inclusive of multiple visual art and ensemble rehearsal studios, a television production suite, piano lab, and digital and interactive media labs.