Sankovich to Lead Riley Center

The longtime head of a historic Ohio theater is the first executive director of Mississippi State’s Riley Education and Performing Arts Center in Meridian.

Dennis S. Sankovich, executive director since 1988 of the Ritz Theatre in Tiffin, begins his new duties March 8," said Harold J. “Nick” Nichols, dean of the university’s Meridian campus.

For several years, MSU has collaborated with the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County to renovate the historic 19th century Grand Opera House and adjacent Marks-Rothenberg Building for use as a regional center for education, conferences and performing arts activities.

When completed in December of next year, the downtown facility is expected to draw approximately 15,000 visitors annually, according to a recent economic impact analysis conducted by MSU’s College of Business and Industry.

“Mr. Sankovich has more than 15 years of experience in the successful operation of a historic theatre and we are delighted he has agreed to join us,” Nichols said, adding that the national search for director had drawn more than 50 applicants.

Nichols said Sankovich’s accomplishments in Ohio resulted in an operation that now annually boasts a $1.4 million budget, more than 50 events and an economic impact of $2.7 million.

In addition to his local duties, Sankovich has served as a board member and treasurer of the League of Historic American Theatres. He holds a bachelor’s degree in performing arts management and a master’s degree in public administration in nonprofit organization management, both from the University of Toledo.

“We are very excited that the Riley Center will be headed by someone with a national reputation in the field,” Nichols said.