Last summer the Plano ISD Board of Trustees voted to name the district’s fine arts facility after Dr. George “Robbie” S. Robinson, Jr. and his wife, Lynore. To those involved in the local arts community, the news came as no surprise. The couple spent many years advocating for the arts.
“The Robinsons have been a major force in support of the arts in the Plano community, and a venue such as this one has been a dream they shared with the district,” Plano ISD Fine Arts Director Kathy Kuddes said shortly after the decision was announced. “It is fitting that this building, dedicated to all of the arts disciplines, will carry their name.”
The Robinson Fine Arts Center at 1800 Alma Drive is set to open later this year. The 82,000-square-foot-facility was designed to showcase music, dance, theater and visual arts across two floors.
The Robinson family moved to Plano in 1981 after Robbie completed 20 years of service as a Naval Officer in the Civil Engineer Corps. He came to work for Ross Perot’s Electronic Data Systems Corporation (EDS) and was tasked with planning and developing the Legacy mixed-use project. It would of course become the catalyst for much of Plano’s rapid growth over the ensuing decades. In addition to his engineering duties, Robbie was also involved in the negotiations to bring companies like Frito-Lay and JCPenney to Legacy. He would eventually manage the EDS board of directors as well before retiring in 1999.
Over the years the Robinsons became very involved in the community. They contributed financially to cancer research after their daughter, Anthea, died of the disease when she was only 14. Robbie was the founding chairman of the Plano Economic Development Board and former vice-chairman of the Plano Chamber of Commerce. In April 1999, Plano proclaimed Robbie Robinson Day. The following year he was named the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year.
The arts always held a special place in the Robinsons’ hearts. They were longtime supporters of the Plano Symphony Orchestra and truly enjoyed serving as board members and ambassadors. The couple traveled the world and saw many things that they wanted to bring back to their hometown.
For years they were passionate about building a local fine arts facility. Robbie pushed hard for a proposed Collin County arts center that never came to fruition. When those plans fell through, Plano ISD officials met with the Robinsons and others in the arts community to see how the district could fill the void.
Plano ISD Education Foundation Senior Executive Director Jamee Jolly recalls Robbie’s passion for the arts and the community. When she led the Plano Chamber of Commerce as CEO, he always seemed to be the one asking questions and throwing out new ideas on how to make the area better.
“I used to joke that every time I would call on Robbie, I always felt like his assistant because when I left it seemed like I always had a list of things that I needed to do,” she said. “He just always had all these ideas and needed someone to help execute.”
The Robinsons’ lasting contribution to the Plano ISD fine arts center goes beyond their name. Robbie earmarked $500,000 to start an endowment for the facility. Those funds will go toward operating costs, ensuring that students will have a first-class place dedicated to the arts for years to come. The donation played no role in the facility being named for him. In fact, it came after the naming decision had already been made.
Robbie passed away last October, nearly two years after Lynore died. Jamee believes that he would be proud of the new facility. When it opens, a plaque will be on display to tell visitors just a bit about the man and woman who helped make it possible.
“[Robbie] worked tirelessly on making sure that there was a proper facility,” she said. “As I walk through the building with his name on it, as it’s under construction, and I see how it’s going to be utilized by our students and our community, it really speaks to what he wanted and what he envisioned for our community.”