Home Carrollton UWG’s Townsend Center receives first endowment named for late supporter

UWG’s Townsend Center receives first endowment named for late supporter

The University of West Georgia’s Townsend Center for the Performing Arts (TCPA) has received its first endowment, named for longtime supporter Michael P. Steed.

“My dad understood how important the university is and how it’s vital to the economic impact of our region,” said Zach Steed ’89, Mike’s son who is an alumnus and serves on the UWG Foundation Board of Trustees. “When Dad passed away in 2020, we wanted to honor his legacy by supporting what he was passionate about, which was music and the performing arts.”

Ultimately, the family opted to fund the Michael Steed Endowment for the Performing Arts to benefit UWG’s Townsend Center for the Performing Arts, which will support programming that was close to his heart. The announcement of the gift happens to coincide with what would’ve been Mike’s 78th birthday this week.

“He worked tirelessly to provide scholarships in multiple areas,” Zach continued. “However, in this particular case, we wanted to support what the university puts back into the community. He often attended shows at the Townsend Center, and he appreciated having the opportunities to be entertained by live music and comedy.”

Mike – whose primary occupation was CEO of Steed Company, a family business in the textile industry – first combined his love for music, his skills of organizing and motivating others’ civic-mindedness, and his aptitude for leadership when he created the Bowdon Sertoma Club Concert Series at Copeland Hall in Bowdon. 

It was around the same time that he met Robert Jennings, TCPA director.

“For Sertoma, Mike literally made every transaction by hand,” Jennings said. “Some of these shows sold 500 tickets, so he was constantly back and forth to the bank. It was an enormous undertaking.”

Jennings explained everything changed once the operations were moved to the Townsend Center.

“We began working with Mike when we received a technology grant to issue tickets for organizations in the community, especially nonprofits and education,” he recalled. “Within a matter of weeks from signing the Sertoma Concert Series as a client, Mike saw the difference it made and asked us to take over all cash, check and credit card sales, in addition to phone, walk-up and online.”

The symbiotic relationship extended even further when the two venues discovered they  had patrons in common.

“We asked Mike if he would help coordinate the two seasons so we wouldn’t run into each other,” Jennings continued. “He began coming to meetings here, and we started talking about seasons in advance. When Mill Town Music Hall was founded, it became even more important to not have shows at the same time and avoid having the same genre back-to-back.”

It made it a collaboration instead of a competition – especially since the venues ranged in capacity. Townsend Center has two spaces, one with 150 seats and one with 450, Copeland’s space was in the 500s, and Mill Town could occupy 1,000. 

“Mike wanted everyone to win,” Jennings said. “He had a very strong feeling of how many tickets an artist could draw, so he would help coordinate an appropriate space.”

In addition to being an aficionado of the performing arts, Mike was also a musician who played semi-professionally for more than 40 years as a member of the Bullsboro Bluegrass Band, a sought-after featured act that hosted a popular music festival in Newnan.

“Mike loved what he called Americana – original music or music made by hand,” Jennings said. “He didn’t want groups who needed vocal correction or synthesizers. You had to get on the stage with your voice and your instruments and be authentic. That was his only criterion.”

So the endowment that now bears his name will seed-fund artists who meet his standards – especially root forms of music including blues, traditional country, bluegrass, jazz, new acoustic, etc. The fund will also support acts featuring humor and comedy.

“We consider this a starting point,” Zach added. “We hope it will be of interest to those who want to support the performing arts at the university, and we’ll invite others to contribute to this endowment as well.”

For more information about how you can honor Mike Steed through this gift to the Townsend Center, please visit giving.westga.edu/steed/

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Julie Lineback
Originally from East Tennessee, Julie Lineback joined the University of West Georgia in August 2006. Her career started in 2000, after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Communications from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. While serving as a communications specialist at Oak Ridge Associated Universities, she received an Award of Quality from the Public Relations Society of America, the world’s largest public relations organization, for her work on a catalog. She also worked as a website editor, copywriter and search engine specialist for BellSouth, where she was a certified Google AdWords Professional. Most recently, she received the UWG School of Communication, Film, and Media's Distinguished Service Award for 2023.