Whether playing legendary venues such as the Chicago Theatre and New York’s Apollo
Theater, or other stages in small towns across the country, many performers have carried
on a common tradition: adding their John Hancock to a backstage “signature wall.”
That tradition has continued in a unique way in Trine University’s T. Furth Center
for the Performing Arts, although it might not have if inaugural performer Lee Greenwood
hadn’t made the effort.
“As he walked around admiring our new facility, he asked me where our signature wall
was,” recalled Judi Abney, a member of the university’s Campus Safety staff. “I had
no idea what he was talking about.”
Greenwood explained the tradition to Abney, but the backstage had not been completed,
meaning there was no wall to sign. John Wilson from Clear Lake Electric, Inc., who
was in the new building to help make sure all the electrical devices worked correctly,
suggested that Greenwood instead sign one of the building’s electrical panels.
“They weren’t going anywhere,” Abney said. “So Lee Greenwood was the first one to
sign our ‘signature panel.’ ”
“After doing a lot of research online, I wasn’t able to find that special signature
wall for Trine University’s concert hall,” she said. “Finally, our associate director,
Victor Morrow, turned to me and asked why I was spending so much time looking for
the perfect idea when I had already started our own tradition, and I realized he was
Since then, Abney, who is the hospitality host for all of Trine’s concerts, has made
sure each performer has added his or her autograph to the panel – now panels, as they
have become filled with signatures.
“Several entertainers have commented that they had never signed an electrical panel
before. They loved the idea,” she said.
She said the biggest challenge was the late country superstar Kenny Rogers, who wanted
his signature at the top of the panel.
“He was too short, so we held his arm up so he could sign the panel,” she recalled.
Other signatures include Montgomery and Gentry, Paralee, the Charlie Daniels Band,
Three Dog Night, America, Wynonna, Michael Bolton, Amy Grant, Travis Tritt and Dionne
Abney hopes that eventually the panels are able to be displayed backstage to help
tell the story of Trine and the entertainers who have performed.
“This is part of the history of Furth,” she said.