Arts Leadership Recipient, Governor’s Arts Award 2015
Businessman and philanthropist from Greeneville, Scott Niswonger has been instrumental in bringing positive change to Northeast Tennessee. Since founding Landair Transport, Inc. in 1981, he built his company into a transportation and logistics leader employing over one thousand people in Greeneville. Using his success to fuel his commitment to philanthropy, Mr. Niswonger has made a tremendous impact on the arts in the region through the Niswonger Foundation and the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.
The Niswonger Performing Arts Center, which seats 1,150, has created a flourishing arts community and offers arts education programming for K-12 children. The center adds to Greeneville’s quality of life and is a powerful economic engine for the entire region. In response to suggestions that a performing arts center could be part of the renovations at Greeneville High School, Mr. Niswonger stepped forward and offered a contribution. Plans for an auditorium that seated 800 were scrapped for a more ambitious scheme to build a 39,000 foot performing arts center that would be an asset to the entire region. Opened in December 2004, the Center is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year as a nationally recognized venue for performances by touring musicians, comedians and theatrical companies.
Education and outreach are vital parts of the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. The programming of the center includes shows for children and outreach by the artists in the community. In addition, a summer theatrical day camp is offered annually by the center to students in grades K-12.
Mr. Niswonger also supports education through his foundation which provides grants to enhance cultural enrichment and to champion education. With the goal of fostering leaders who will help improve their communities, the Niswonger Foundation provides scholarships to high achieving students who pledge to return to their communities for one year of service after graduation. In addition, the Foundation provides grant money for school programming and professional development, including Arts in Education programs. The Arts in Education funding makes it possible for artists to visit public schools, for all Greene County high schools to offer band and instrumental music programs and for an annual concert to be offered to over 2,000 students in the area by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.
With a focus on holistically supporting the community in its areas of greatest need, Mr. Niswonger also supports healthcare through the founding of the Niswonger Children’s Hospital, which is home to one of only six St. Jude affiliate clinics nationwide. The hospital opened its doors in 2009 and provides essential pediatric services to the region and beyond. Mr. Niswonger often arranges for touring artists from the Performing Arts Center to visit the hospital and entertain the children. Furthermore, Mr. Niswonger brings Broadway performers to the hospital to perform with the children in an annual talent show and fundraiser.
These significant contributions are only a small picture of the ways Scott Niswonger’s vision and generosity are benefiting Northeast Tennessee and beyond. His leadership and legacy will have a profound impact on the region, state and arts community for generations to come.