The gala theme is “Bow Ties and Broadway,” and proceeds from the event will create the Dr. Brownie and Barbara Polly Cultural and Humanities Endowment at MECC, which will support student and community events that promote the preservation and continuation of Southwest Virginia’s unique cultural heritage while also exposing the region to varied cultural and historical mediums.
Events will include the John Fox, Jr. Literary Festival, MECC’s Mountain Music School, the Home Craft Days Festival, the Slemp Art Gallery, programming specifically for student and community veterans, as well as other guest speakers that will contribute to the enrichment of students and varying audiences. In addition, the endowment will support scholarships for students enrolling in music or arts-related coursework.
Mistress of Ceremonies for the Hall of Honor Gala will be noted Big Stone Gap author Adriana Trigiani.
The evening will begin with a reception in the Slemp Commons of Phillips-Taylor Hall at 6 p.m., April 13, followed by a full-course buffet dinner in the Goodloe Center at 6:45 p.m. A short recognition program will follow dinner and precede the musical entertainment of the evening, a concert by John and Mary K. Wilson.
The Pollys will be recognized for their leadership and service to the region in cultural and civic affairs in Big Stone Gap and in Southwest Virginia. As a member of the Big Stone Gap Music Study Club, Barbara was instrumental in the production of annual Broadway musicals utilizing only local talent. In 1964, she became involved in the new outdoor musical drama in Big Stone Gap based on John fox, Jr.’s novel, “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine.” She played the lead role of June Tolliver for the first five seasons. That began a lifelong relationship with the drama and its parent organization, Lonesome Pine Arts and Crafts. In 1970, when John Fox, Jr.’s sister passed away at the family home in Big Stone Gap, Barbara negotiated the purchase of the home and created the John Fox, Jr. House and Museum. To help pay the mortgage and defray expenses, the Fox House went into the dining business with Barbara and other volunteers providing private dinners.
In 1967, after failed attempts by others to charter a Cub Scout pack, Barbara successfully helped to re-charter a Cub Scout pack in Big Stone Gap. She remained involved in Scouting for 18 years as a Den Mother and a leader, eventually receiving the Silver Beaver Award, the highest award in scouting. The Cub Scout pack continues today.
Barbara was certified to teach high school, and in 1977 she returned to teaching at Powell Valley High School, where she taught English and instructed the One Act Play team for the next two years. She left teaching and began selling real estate, eventually becoming a broker. She was Realtor of the Year in 1999 for the Southwest Virginia Association of Realtors.
Brownie was valedictorian of his Big Stone Gap High School graduating class, and was quarterback of the football team. He was a founding board member of Lonesome Pine Hospital, and was inducted into the inaugural class of the Three Star Wellmont Hall of Fame in 2001. He was named to the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia in 1970, and also served on the boards of Clinch Valley College (now UVa-Wise) and Mountain Empire Community College. He also served on the board of directors of the Wise County Mental Health Association and was a member of the Big Stone Gap Kiwanis Club for 68 years, serving as President, and being named Kiwanian of the Year.
In his later years, he enjoyed delivering meals for Meals on Wheels. He coached Little League Baseball and Peanut Football. He was an active member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Big Stone Gap, serving on a number of committees. In addition, he served the people of Wise County for 42 years in his dental practice. Brownie was an avid sports fan, golfer, and bird hunter. He was a diehard University of Tennessee football fan and Cincinnati Reds baseball fan. He also enjoyed grouse hunting on Black Mountain. He was a past president of Lonesome Pine Country Club.
Tickets for the gala are $75 each. Sponsorships start at $500. For details, call or e-mail Jeri Bledsoe in the MECC Foundation office at (276) 523-2400, ext. 287, or [email protected] Or visit the MECC Foundation website at http://www.meccfoundation.org/mecc-foundation-gala/