By Amy Mercer, Island Eye News Editor
On April 7 at 12:30 p.m., Spoleto Festival USA will present its 2017 Mary Ramsay Civic Award to Mr. Joseph H. (Peter) McGee and Mrs. Evelyn (Patti) McGee.
While the McGees have been longtime supporters of the Festival, hosting countless receptions after each afternoon Dock Street Theatre chamber music concert for more than 15 years, they have also proven their devotion to many other Charleston organizations and institutions.
Peter, a Navy veteran, member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1963 to 1968, and a Charleston City Council member from 1971 to 1975, has also served as president of the South Carolina Historical Society and Historic Charleston Foundation.
Patti’s notable achievements include serving as president of the Junior League of Charleston and the Women’s Council of the Carolina Arts Association, as well as becoming a founding board member of the Charleston Horticultural Society in 2000. During the April 7 luncheon, world-renowned flutist Paula Robison, a former co-director of Spoleto Festival USA’s chamber music concerts, will present the McGees’ award. The Reverend Cress Darwin will lead the afternoon’s invocation.
The McGees moved to Sullivan’s two years ago because they wanted to be closer to their daughters who own homes on the island, and says the love being a part of the island life. Peter was born and raised in Charleston and met his wife Patti when she moved to the Lowcountry to teach at St. Andrews High School. They were married in 1957 and lived on Church Street, right next to the Dock Street Theater.
In 1977, Spoleto Festival founder, Gian Carlo Minotti, asked the McGees if they could host chamber musicians for lunch after the noon concert at Dock Street. Mrs. McGee agreed and provided a ‘Green Room’ of sorts in her home for 17 years.
“These were the early days of the Festival and we got to know all the artists from Tennessee Williams to Arthur Miller. It was such an exciting time. Our friends would ask, ‘why are you still serving sandwiches?’” Patti laughs, “the beauty of meeting such interesting people gave us just as much as we gave it. We are very flattered by this award but we know we gained so much by being a part of the Festival.”
Recognizing extraordinary contributions of civic and charitable leadership within the Charleston community, the Mary Ramsay Civic Award was established in 2012. The honor is named after Mary Croghan Ramsay, one of Charleston’s great leaders and philanthropists, and a longtime champion of the Festival and the performing arts. Past recipients have included John and Norma Palms (2012), Charles S. Way, Jr. (2013), Dr. Raymond S. Greenberg (2014), Martha Rivers Ingram (2015), and Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. (2016).
The annual luncheon, sponsored by South State Bank and benefiting Spoleto Festival USA, will take place at the Governor Thomas Bennett House.
A limited number of tickets (starting at $200 each) are still available and may be purchased online at spoletousa.org or by calling 843.720.1114.