EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — The founding executive director of the Wharton Center for Performing Arts, Kenneth Beachler, has died at age 87.

The Wharton Center announced Beachler’s passing in a statement released Wednesday.

Beachler led the Wharton Center from 1981 until 1992, and was a vital force for its launch as a leading performing arts center in mid-Michigan.

He was known as a dedicated Spartan, graduating from Michigan State University with honors in 1963 with a degree in communication and media studies.

Beachler’s accomplishments included his position as an announcer and music program director at WKAR Radio. He was also an on-air host for WKAR TV.

His relationship with former MSU President Clifton Wharton led to his eventual role as the first executive director of the Wharton Center.

Throughout his time, Beachler remained active in the the local arts community and was proud of his service as a U.S. Navy captain and Army veteran.

“My heart is always at Wharton Center. Back when we opened, we never imagined presenting eight Broadway shows plus all the other stellar performing arts the center has now. If you told us this was going to happen, I think we would all be flabbergasted,” Beachler said in a 2016 interview.

MSU established the Kenneth C. Beachler Arts Management Internship Fund in 1992 to honor his dedicated work at the Wharton Center.

The internship provided an avenue for MSU students to gain experience working in the field of arts management.

“We are saddened to learn about Kens passing,” said Eric Olmscheid, current executive director of the Wharton Center, in a statement.

“Kens life was dedicated to the performing arts and his commitment was unwavering. He provided essential leadership in the planning and development of Wharton Center as well as the first decade of operations,” Olmscheid continued. “We would not be where we are today without his vision, commitment, and passion. The staff of Wharton Center extends our heartfelt condolences to Kens family and the many, many friends he leaves behind.”