Andrew Hay to lead Cultural Foundation of the Texas Panhandle

By Chip Chandler 

An Amarillo arts leader will assume the helm of the Cultural Foundation of the Texas Panhandle and two leading Panhandle institutions, West Texas A&M University President Walter V. Wendler announced today.

Dr. Andrew Hay, currently executive director of the Amarillo Symphony, will join CFTP on Sept. 1 as its first executive director.

CFTP was formed this year to preserve the culture of the Texas Panhandle and beyond, focusing the efforts of both Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum and the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation, which produces the musical “Texas.” CFTP operates under the oversight of WT, as a member of The Texas A&M University System.

“The Cultural Foundation of the Texas Panhandle will play a critical role in sharing the history of our region and its future,” Wendler said. “Finding an executive director to lead the CFTP and understand the significance is vital. We’ve done that with Dr. Andrew Hay. The Panhandle is distinctive. More importantly, the history of the Panhandle is absolutely central to the history of our great state, and Andrew understands that. We are Texas.”

Hay, a Colorado native, moved to Amarillo with his family in 2013, assuming leadership of the Symphony in 2018, where most recently he has headed up the search for its new music director.

“I’m absolutely honored and humbled to be offered the job,” Hay said. “It’s a tall order, but Dr. Wendler and the advisory board saw that I fit the bill because of my experience in the performing arts, my local ties and, most importantly, my love of the history of this region.

“I'm looking forward to working with staff and stakeholders to continue to collect, curate and celebrate the matchless history of this region through the efforts of CFTP. But I'm also looking forward to innovating access to the amazing artifacts in the collection of PPHM and to the outstanding artistic production of ‘Texas’ so that as many people as possible might engage the rich heritage of the Panhandle and the wider state of Texas.”

CFTP received 44 applications from around the country and interviewed six finalists.

“How fortunate we are to have someone so well qualified right here in our midst to lead and guide the CFTP,” said J. Pat Hickman, CFTP advisory board chairman and chairman of the board for Happy State Bank and Trust Co. and Happy Bancshares Inc. “Andrew’s high-caliber leadership, character, people skills and ties to the Texas Panhandle are exactly what we are looking for. We could not be more pleased.”

Hay soon will begin traveling around the state, meeting personally with the advisory board’s members and raising funds for CFTP, the museum and the musical.

“The CFTP is a great vehicle to make not only our region, but also the entire state of Texas and beyond, take notice of where we are and what we can do,” Hay said. “We want to make it possible for many, many more people to engage with the history and culture of this area of Texas.”

The Panhandle-Plains Historical Society was founded in 1921 in an effort to preserve this region’s human and natural history. Construction on Pioneer Hall began in 1932, and Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, now the largest history museum in the state, opened its doors the following year on the campus of what is now West Texas A&M University.

“I’m really excited about Andrew Hay and what he brings to the table for the benefit of both the museum and Texas,” said Joel Hogue, chair of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society board of directors. “The museum is entering its second century, and Andrew’s leadership at the CFTP will help assure that the future is bright.”

The effort to celebrate the history of the region through an outdoor musical began in 1960 when Canyon community leader Margaret Harper reached out to playwright Paul Green. The musical debuted in 1966 and, until COVID-19 forced a cancellation of its 2020 season, has been performed annually before thousands of audience members in Pioneer Amphitheatre inside Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The 55th annual season runs through Aug. 14.

“We are thrilled having Andrew take on the leadership role in this extraordinary collaborative initiative,” said Mark Hodges, TPHF board chairman. “His familiarity with the Panhandle region, the museum, and the ‘Texas’ outdoor musical will allow him to hit the ground running.”

Hay said it did not take long for him and his family to fall in love with their adopted hometown.

“There’s a strange beauty and a fascinating history to this place, which was kind of the last place to be settled in the United States,” Hay said. “There’s an attitude that goes with the people who live here — individualistic and pioneering, but quick to support others. I love that combination, that attitude toward life and the history that goes along with it.”

A native of Littleton, Colo., Hay and his wife, Kendall, have three young children: Amelie, Aaron, and Isla. Hay's formal educational background is a mixture of management, philosophy, history, the arts, and theology — the latter being the subject of his Ph.D. from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

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