Megan Riegel ’84 recently received South Carolina’s highest civilian honor — The Order of the Palmetto — for her work as president and CEO of the Peace Center for the Performing Arts. The award was presented by South Carolina Governor Nikki R. Haley on Tuesday, June 25, at the Peace Center in Greenville, S.C.
The Order of the Palmetto recognizes lifetime achievements and contributions to the State of South Carolina. Riegel has headed the Peace Center since 1997.
Gov. Haley lauded Riegel’s arts leadership: “Your work with the Peace Center for the Performing Arts in Greenville demonstrates your dedication to the enrichment of South Carolina, and your advocacy for the arts will have a lasting impact on our state for years to come. In the world of making a positive difference, you have been an incredibly effective leader to those around you.”
Under Riegel’s tenure, the Peace Center has served as a catalyst for unprecedented economic development in upstate South Carolina through its diverse cultural performances and educational opportunities. The Center generates $1.1 million in annual tax revenues and has an economic impact of $25 million annually.
A 20th Anniversary Campaign that Riegel and the Peace Center board of trustees initiated in 2010 shattered its $21.5 million goal in just two years, with a total of $23 million raised to date. The campaign has funded the expansion and renovation of the Peace Center “to ensure that the stellar performing arts center continues to live up to its mission of offering the most extraordinary cultural experiences possible for patrons and visitors,” says Riegel, who holds both an M.F.A. from Meadows School of the Arts at SMU, as well as an M.B.A. from SMU’s Cox School of Business.
With the majority of the renovations complete, the Peace Center is a focal point of Greenville’s award-winning downtown and has become a popular public gathering spot.
“The Peace Center simply wouldn’t be the incredible performing arts institution it is today without Megan,” says Betty Peace Stall, a longtime Peace Center benefactor. “Her leadership and demand for excellence in programming and facilities has helped expand the vision for the Peace Center far beyond its original concept.”
Riegel oversees an annual budget of $12 million for a six-acre campus in the heart of downtown Greenville that includes eight buildings totaling 200,000 square feet. Theaters include a 2,100-seat multi-purpose concert hall, a 437-seat proscenium theater, a 140-seat cabaret, and a 1,200-seat outdoor amphitheater. Under her leadership, the Peace Center’s annual fundraising program has grown from $400,000 to $1.9 million and its annual endowment has grown from $6 million to $26 million.
The SMU alumna has spent her entire career in the performing arts industry. Prior to joining the Peace Center in 1994 as general manager and director of development, she headed up development and marketing for the Actor’s Fund of America in New York City. In addition, she has managed daily activities at the world-renowned Joffrey Ballet’s development department, the Philadelphia Drama Guild and the Curtis Institute of Music.
She started her post-SMU career at the Cleveland Play House in Cleveland, Ohio, America’s first professional regional theatre. She initially managed operations for the four-theatre complex before assuming the helm of its fundraising and development efforts.
Her professional affiliations include membership in the Performing Arts Center Consortium, the Broadway League and the Independent Presenters Network. In Greenville she has served on the boards of Child Development Services, the Greenville Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Commerce Club, the Metropolitan Arts Council, the Greenville Chamber of Commerce Board of Advisors, Greenville Forward Board of Advisors and the Warehouse Theatre.