On a Mission to Spread the Good Word

For 40 years, Art and Meade Ferguson and Ringling College of Art and Design have been engaged in a love affair. “Ringling has been the love of our life,” they say.

 It began when Meade moved to Sarasota and accepted a position at Ringling School of Art as secretary to then-president Robert Perkins. She discovered a warm, friendly and welcoming place, and most especially enjoyed getting to know the students. “When my daughters would come to work with me, the students loved to help and spend time with the girls,” Meade remembers fondly.

 Meade introduced her husband to Ringling. At the time, he recalls, the College did not enjoy strong community support. Art and Meade made it their mission to spread the word about Ringling’s talented and deserving students and garner support for them.

 Their involvement with students led them to create a Student Hospitality Program. For many years, the Fergusons would invite the students to their home on weekends to sail, swim, and enjoy Meade’s home cooking. Often the students would ask if they could bring a friend who would eventually become part of the group. Over the years, Art and Meade have stayed in touch with many of these former students and have relished seeing them go on to successful careers.

 Art and Meade want everyone to meet Ringling College’s students.

 “Once you’ve met them, it’s hard not to like them and want to support them,” they say, which is precisely what the Fergusons have done. Art has been a trustee since 1984, serving as chair from 1989 to 1997, and in a leadership capacity for three successful fundraising campaigns.

To assist the College’s Kimbrough Library in expanding the extraordinary resources it provides the students, Meade has been a staunch supporter of the Ringling College Library Association, serving as president and, three times, as Town Hall chair. The campus’ Ferguson Studio and Allis Colvin Place in the Bayou Village residence complex (named for Art’s mother) stand as testament to the Ferguson’s commitment to Ringling College students. In all, Art and Meade have contributed more than $360,000 to support the students and the College they love.

 Their greatest passion is scholarships. “When people know the caliber of our students and then find out about the financial challenges they face, it is a strong incentive to support scholarships,” says Art. “Scholarships need to be a focus of our work if we want to continue to attract top-flight students.”

 Through their extraordinary generosity, including the creation of the Art and Meade Ferguson Endowed Scholarship, and their unflagging commitment of time and energy, the Fergusons have exemplified their love of Ringling College and its students.

Photograph by Barbara Banks