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Have You Met?

Have You Met Colleen Jennings-Roggensack?

As the Executive Director of ASU Gammage for the past 23 years, Colleen Jennings-Roggensack has solidified the university’s cultural impact on a wide segment of the Arizona, national, and international communities. She is excited about celebrating the 50th year of ASU Gammage “It truly is the heart and foundation of the arts and culture in Arizona! Our mission and motto is ‘Connecting Communities’. And I consider this to be our most important aspect, that ASU has accepted the challenge to find solutions to the world’s problems through the shared community of the arts!”

Growing up as a self-described military brat, Colleen has lived and traveled all over the world. She worked at Dartmouth College out East. “But when we had several job offers in this part of the country, we discovered we loved the West, and Arizona in particular. We saw the great potential that ASU presented. We love it so much here that we say we’ve become ‘desert people’!” Colleen’s husband is a volcanologist, and professor in the Earth Science and Geology departments at ASU.

“What I noticed, and liked best about the Arizona community, was that people were open immediately. Here you are accepted unconditionally, as in, ‘now you are one of us’! Our daughter did well in this environment. She is an eight- time All-American swimmer, and recently her relay team broke a world record! My husband is also a master swimmer, and I find it fun and relaxing to be an official at swim meets.”

At ASU Gammage, Colleen is responsible for artistic direction, fiscal and administrative planning. “I’m so proud that we are self-sufficient monetarily, a rarity in today’s world! I also observe 68 musicals a year and plan and curate our series.  I travel worldwide choosing the acts and events that will be showcased at ASU Gammage.  And I also encourage the many cultural exchanges we have with other countries such as Mexico, China, England and Scotland.”

Colleen names some aspects of ASU Gammage: “We are the #1 touring market in the US, which contributes significantly to the economy of the region! And over 35,000 school children receive art training from ASU Gammage each year, besides our preparation of teachers in arts instruction. Every year we stage Camp Broadway, where almost 100 kids experience how to try out for a production, and participate in every aspect until show time. For older students, we have the School to Work program where high school students learn about marketing, developing, developing change to fundraising, how to book a show, and in general learn the business basics of how to mount a successful art production.”

She continues, “Since 2002 we have been taking the arts into Estrella Jail through our program Journey Home. I like to say that we take off the mask of victimhood for women.” It has been shown that the recidivism rate is significantly reduced in women who participate in the program.

“I’m also very proud of our strong commitment to the military! One evening we hosted a Heroes Night with 300 military families who watched Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. We also had a Heroes Night, complete with dinner, and included military service animals! Navajo code-talkers were recognized with the play South Pacific. I am passionate about supporting our military!” Recently Colleen received an honor from the National Guard for her continual support of people in uniform.

An influential leader in the arts, Colleen Jennings-Roggensack says of her position at ASU Gammage, “It’s far more than a job, it’s my calling!”

What are your local volunteer activities?  USA Swim official--officiate age group, Masters and NCAA swim meets and Williams College Parents Fund

Who inspired you to give back to your community?  My parents, Lottie and Ernest Jennings.  

Which fundraising event is your favorite?  GO GAGA (Golden Gammage Gala)

Favorite restaurant?  House of Tricks

Favorite movie?   Sandakan 8

Favorite play?  ANGELS IN AMERICA and my favorite musical is COMPANY

Favorite TV show?  Scandal

Whom do you most admire, and why?  My parents, because they lived their lives and raised my brother, sister and myself on three sacred texts by which to live our lives—you will be a success if you just broaden your horizons, you must give back to the community and you stand on the shoulders of those who came before you.

If your life were a movie, who would you want to play your part?  Kerry Washington

Do you have any pets?  Three rescue cats:  Scooter Nagurski, Grey Goose and Bumble Bee

When you move, what will your home tell its next owner about you?  Loved lots of art, loved to watch the stars (lots of telescopes), big Green Bay Packer supporters, lots of lively dinnertime discussions from politics, arts to sports and the house always had a scent of  swimmer’s perfume—chlorine.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned through the years?  This too shall pass.

What was your first job?  Babysitting

What is your greatest indulgence?  Wine and chocolate

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?  I’m Kelsey Roggensack’s mother.

What is your most treasured possession?  Bösendorfer grand piano

What is the quality you most like in people?  Intelligent, positive “can do” attitude

Favorite books/writers?  Yes, Chef by Chef Marcus Samuelsson, The Birdless Summer by Han Suyin, I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and Built to Last by Collins and Porras

What is the trait you most deplore in others?  Not living up to your potential

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?  Going to swim meets, going to the theater, star gazing

What would we be most surprised to know about you?  I can’t sing.

What is the best advice you have ever received?  My mother said, “If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, then be a shrub in the valley, but be the best shrub of all.”

What are some challenges facing nonprofits?  Preparing their organizations for the great demographic changes taking place in our country.