Students, faculty, staff and other members of the St. George community gathered at Desert Hills High School to honor Ken Peterson and Glenn Webb with the Pillars concert March 26.
Peterson and Webb were terminated from their tenured positions at Dixie State University March 2, and their classes have been since taken over by old and new DSU faculty.
The concert was organized by students and faculty to show their appreciation for the two professors who each spent over 10 years at the institution. Donations were collected before the show, and the total amount was split in half and given to each professor. The event raised about $1,900 in cash donations, and online ticket sales equated to around $700.
“It’s overwhelming in every possible way,” Peterson said. “This is one concert I never wanted to go to. A concert held in honor of my termination.”
DSU alumna Corinne McFerran organized the event through Facebook the day the two professors were removed from their positions. McFerran graduated from the music department in 2015, completing her degree under the guidance of Peterson since 2008.
“A lot of people were saying what can we do, and obviously there is a lot of anger [and] we want to protest, and it’s still there,” McFerran said. “There is a time and place for that, but I thought we needed a night that was just purely love and support for these guys.”
McFerran was also behind a similar concert held in support of Varlo Davenport when akin events transpired. She learned a lot from organizing the event, and nights like this are important not only for the students to say thank you, but also to show the professors they are not alone, McFerran said.
“When everyone’s anger dies away there’s just crickets, and no one’s there for you, or at least it feels that way,” McFerran said.
McFerran said herself and other students wanted to show their support through music because they owe their abilities and talents to the two “pillars” who brought them all together.
“My talent is through the roof because of [Peterson], not to talk myself up or anything,” McFerran said. “But I am talented because of [Peterson].”
McFerran said she hopes this event will show the community how much Peterson and Webb have done for the St. George, and will encourage members to ask questions and speak up when they believe something is wrong.
“We need to call people out if they are doing things wrong, and this is wrong,” McFerran said. “Getting rid of these men was wrong, without a doubt in my mind.”
Peterson said no matter what happens, he and his family will be all right. His greatest concern is the events transpiring at the institution he worked at for 16 years, he said.
Peterson gave passing students hugs as they prepared to perform in support of the two men.
Tears came to Peterson’s eyes as he said, “Whatever happens, I will love you forever.”
Peterson said for 14 years DSU was a paradise of music and theater.
“It was fun; it was good; it was right,” Peterson said. “It was wonderful, and now it is gone. I don’t know what it will take to return.”
Webb addressed the audience toward the end of the night and said, “We, all of us, will thrive despite whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. Whether by misfortune, conspiracy, or whatever, it is up to us each individually and collectively to thrive despite the circumstances.”
Courtney Gordon, a senior music education major from St. George, performed in the concert to support Webb, who she said helped her become a better musician and a more confident performer.
“I came here because I’ve been to another college before, and ever since I switched from there to [DSU], [Webb] has actually helped me become a better musician [in] the past three years I’ve been here,” Gordon said.
Gordon said knowing both Peterson and Webb, both are “amazing people” and have helped not only the university but the St. George community.
McFerran said, in the end, it is future students who will suffer most from the loss.
“All of this is at stake,” McFerran said. “Future students will not have this. They will not have the abilities we have, [and] they will not have the instruction we have.”