PULLMAN, Wash. — The Crimson Company, one of Washington State
University’s most popular public relations vehicles for nearly a quarter
century, will be discontinued after its final tour in May as the result of budget
cuts.

The decision was made earlier this week by the executive board of the WSU
Alumni Association, the group’s sponsor.

“It was an extremely tough decision to make,” said Keith Lincoln, association
executive director. “It was a decision that you had to make with your head, not
your heart.”

Lincoln conceived the idea for a student show choir as a way to broaden
visibility for both the Alumni Association and the university in the late 1970s.
He hired the founding director, Roger Stephens, to put together an ensemble
of 16 singers/dancers and a three-piece combo to represent WSU. The group
made its first performance on the Pullman campus on Dad’s Weekend, 1977.

Since its founding 23 years ago, the Crimson Company has performed more
than 650 shows and entertained 350,000 WSU alumni and friends under the
sponsorship of the Alumni Association. Members of the show choir serve as
goodwill ambassadors for the university, provide music workshops in high
schools when on tour in the Pacific Northwest, and have been effective
recruiters of new WSU students.

“I thought the program had a lot of validity, not only for the Alumni
Association, but for the entire university,” said Lincoln.

But, in the end, sponsorship of the Crimson Company became too heavy an
economic burden, requiring roughly 20 percent of the association’s budget
this year, according to Lincoln.

He said that the Crimson Company always operated on a year-to-year basis.
And with the increasing cost of equipment, travel and inflation, the association
made its decision to discontinue the show choir.

“We reviewed the Crimson Company numerous times and tried to cut back
where it was possible,” Lincoln said. “But once you establish a standard, it is
hard to make meaningful cuts in the number of students and musicians without
destroying your final product.”

For years, WSU alumni have generously opened up their homes to host
members of the Crimson Company when they were on tour, as a way to help
reduce costs for the Alumni Association. “It was a great relationship for both
the alumni and students,” Lincoln said.

In 1998, the Crimson Company performed for more than 30,000 people at
pre-game rallies tied to the WSU football team’s first appearance in the Rose
Bowl in 67 years.

Lincoln said the choir has participated in the annual Vocal Extravaganza on
campus, as well as for the Dad’s Weekend Breakfast and the Mom’s Weekend
show, and for the annual Golden Grad Reunion.

“This had to be a tough decision for the WSU Alumni Board of Directors,”
said Roger Kelley.

“I am extremely thankful that I had this unique professional opportunity to
serve as the director of such an incredible educational opportunity for WSU
students for the last 10 years. This has been a true highlight of my life.”

Other directors of the Crimson Company have included Chris Olsen, Scott
Dailey and Lisa Leff; Lori Rossman-Wright, 1981-82 and 1983-87; and Bob
Demaree, 1987-89.

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