Two decades ago, visionary and Founding Donor—my good friend, Jim Pugh—set out to build one of the greatest performing arts centers in the world: Dr. Phillips Center.
Dr. Phillips Center is a world-class hub for all of the best international, national, and local artists. The 698,312-square-foot venue includes three theaters: the 2,711-seat Walt Disney Theater, an amplified theater used for touring Broadway shows, concerts, and other performances, as well as private events; the 296-seat Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater, a community theater ideal for regional arts groups; and the new 1,464–1,770-seat Steinmetz Hall, which transforms in shape, seating, and sound to accommodate a variety of art forms and events. The $613 million Dr. Phillips Center is well-known for its community outreach and arts education; the Arts For Every Life® Fund has raised $3.5 million to date to support programs, classes, and operations for educational, cultural and economic transformation in Central Florida.
Jim led the design and construction, established a successful business, and influenced a thriving culture at the center. And after a 19-year tenure as the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Jim is retiring.
As Founding Donors and principal visionaries of Dr. Phillips Center from 2003–2022, Jim and his wife, Alexis, have been lead developers in creating this internationally recognized venue. Alexis and Jim Pugh Theater, honorably named after their efforts, support the collective vision of enriching the community and supporting young people to go and see the fine arts.
Yet, all these accomplishments fly under the radar, which says everything about Jim’s character: he is generous, ambitious, and community-involved, but subtle and understated. And with that, he truly hasn’t been honored enough. How Jim hasn’t been recognized for his achievements more than he has is beyond me! But those who know Jim know that’s who he is and how he carries himself.
I’m grateful to be one of those who know him well and call him a close, personal friend.
During Jim’s last Board meeting at the end of June, I was ecstatic to Zoom in to surprise Jim with a $1 million donation to the arts center to honor his legacy through the support of different initiatives and education programs.
Jim and I have been through tons together—we’ve traveled the world, sailed around the globe with buddies, climbed some of the world’s greatest mountains, and raced cars—and now we get together once or twice a year for some sort of adventure.
They say opposites attract, and that’s how our friendship has panned out; I’m a risk-taker, and Jim is more thoughtful about his risk-taking. You could call him a Type A in a Type C’s clothing, so you likely don’t know half of what he’s done.
When Jim supports something, he goes all in but doesn’t have to tell the world about it. He is this incredible overachiever who can build beautiful things—like the Dr. Phillips Center—out of nothing. Jim led the design and construction, established a successful business, and influenced the thriving culture of this world-renowned facility. Starting out as a young guy to today, Jim has built successful businesses and communities, and much of the vibrant arts community in Orlando is a testament to his deep commitment and leadership.
My donation and recognition of Jim is just another well-deserved honour for him to truly celebrate everything that he has built, shared, and accomplished throughout his lifetime. So, congratulations to my good friend, Jim Pugh, on his well-deserved retirement.