By Chip Chandler

A program that brings performances by West Texas A&M University artists to towns around the Texas Panhandle has now been permanently funded by a Dalhart couple.

The Louise C. and Gene F. Rahll Endowment for the Showcase in a Suitcase program officially will be celebrated during a 7 p.m. April 9 concert by WT Jazz at the La Rita Theatre, 311 Denrock Ave. in Dalhart.

“We’re blessed with good health and to be able to help other people do things,” Gene Rahll said. “You just can’t imagine how much satisfaction you get out of being able to be in a position to help other people.”

The Rahlls’ $300,000 gift to WT’s One West comprehensive fundraising campaign will enable WT’s cultural impact to extend around the Texas Panhandle, said Dr. Todd Rasberry, vice president for philanthropy and external relations.

“One West is the fuel for our long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World,” Rasberry said. “Serving as a regional research university for the Panhandle includes shaping culture through the fine arts and humanities. The Rahlls’ generous endowment will ensure that Showcase in a Suitcase will continue to engage and entertain audiences for years to come.”

Showcase in a Suitcase began in 2011 as a way to offer educational and cultural experiences to rural Texas Panhandle residents through performances, workshops, lectures and clinics.

The majority of events have taken place in the La Rita Theatre in Dalhart, but performances and master classes also have been conducted in Boys Ranch, Channing, Pampa, Panhandle, Perryton, Quitaque and Vega, as well as Midland and Odessa.

“We are thrilled that the Rahlls’ generosity will allow us to continue sharing the phenomenal talents of our students with audiences all around the region,” said Dr. Jessica Mallard, dean of the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities. “We have a responsibility to serve the Texas Panhandle, and we are humbled that the Rahlls chose to make this gift to support us.”

The Rahlls are synonymous with providing opportunities to Dalhart residents, supporting the La Rita, the XIT Museum and a recreation facility that will house basketball, badminton, soccer and wall climbing, as well as exercise and meeting rooms. Ground broke earlier this year on the facility.

The couple also has supported post-secondary education, helping establish the Rahll campus of Frank Phillips College and a $1.5 million endowment through the Amarillo Area Foundation that helps pay all tuition and fees for qualifying Dalhart High School students attending the Rahll campus.

Gene Rahll served as mayor of Dalhart for 16 years; his wife is a native of the northwest Panhandle town.

The April 9 event will feature a 16-student ensemble performing beloved standards, including “In the Mood,” “Take the A Train,” “Caravan” and more. All Showcase in a Suitcase events are free.

Additionally, WT jazz bands will give a free concert April 7 at WT.