Former HHS Artist-in-Residence Remembered with Arts ScholarshipBy STAFF REPORTS,
Friends of Neely native Mackenzie Westmoreland availability of applications for a memorial scholarship for the performing arts in honor of this local artist.
“Mack was completely blind, an amputee, and in spite of having received a kidney transplant, presented quite a compelling story about never giving up and doing good things for others,” said Beaumont’s Jennifer Steele, who starred in the role of Dorothy in the Perry Central High School production of ‘The Wiz’ that was directed by the Greene County native. Westmoreland would later be named PCHS STAR Student and receive a four-year scholarship to Troy State University.
“Establishing a scholarship for high school students who plan on careers in theatre, film or related performing arts is the ultimate compliment to his legacy,” said Jennifer McNeal of Leakesville, retired speech and debate coach at Greene County High School, where Westmoreland often volunteered as a debate judge and theatre coach.
After attending Ole Miss Law School, Westmoreland served as Artist-in-Residence for Hattiesburg High School Theatre, directing regular season productions and competition shows including Freedom Summer, Chicago, The Women and The Dining Room. In 2006, he served as co-playwright and co-director for The Katrina Project: Hell and High Water, a docudrama about the Category 5 storm. The play toured the country with Hattiesburg High School actors, enjoyed a command performance before Congress, and to date has generated over $400,000 for victims of natural disasters.
“When the HHS cast and crew of ‘The Katrina Project’ was invited to Orlando to perform and receive the National Education Association’s National Human and Civil Rights Award, I knew we were helping to save lives,” said HHS Director of Speech and Debate Scott Waldrop. “Mr. Mack was a big part of that HHS philanthropic outreach and effort,” worked as producer of the nation’s only live theatre account of Hurricane Katrina.”
As a theatre professional, Westmoreland continued his advocacy for the arts as a co-founder of Historia Films, and helped with international, national and local production of movies like The Hollow and The Historian. Local filmmaker and national actor Miles Doleac fondly remembers working with Westmoreland as a student at HHS and as a co-founder of Historia Films.
“Mackenzie was so very pleased that we were shooting here, in Mississippi, in our home state, for all the economic, cultural, and educational benefits that entailed,” said Doleac. “He was instrumental in helping to build community support and, in spite of his physical limitations, he was a formidable creative force on both films from the script phase onward."
Westmoreland was born the night Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in recent years as a resident of New York City, he would go on to survive the horrific events of September 11, 2001.
Retired Hattiesburg High School Theatre Director Michael Marks, Westmoreland’s high school debate and drama coach, puts his former student’s life and mission into perspective.
“The lasting impact that he had on students in local high schools was phenomenal,” said Marks. “His standard for quality theatre helped to inspire an entire generation of actors and technicians in the craft who are still working on Broadway, in Hollywood and in the performing arts industry. This scholarship will ensure that his legacy of hard work and professionalism lives on in perpetuity.”
Graduating high school seniors interested in receiving The Mackenzie Westmoreland Memorial Scholarship for the Performing Arts must apply by the March 15 deadline. The completed application, two reference letters and an official high school transcript should be sent to Pinebelt Foundation, 1501 Adeline Street, Hattiesburg, MS 39401.
Patrons, family and friends, who want to help endow the annual scholarship, may send tax-deductible contributions to the above address or donate online at www.PinebeltFoundation.org, where more information on the scholarship can be found. Credit card donations may also be made by calling Pinebelt Foundation at 601-583-6180.