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Theatre Education Alliance Honors Colby for Lifetime Achievement

bob colby looks at gift as tom cooper stands at podium
Professor Bob Colby, right, receives a bag of coffee from Professor Tom Cooper during a January 2020 Faculty Assembly, at which Cooper announced the Spirit of Emerson Committee’s Kindness Award would be named after Colby. The Performing Arts chair was honored Thursday, July 30, with a lifetime achievement award from the American Alliance for Theatre & Education. File photo

Professor Bob Colby, chair of the Performing Arts Department, was honored with the Campton Bell Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Alliance for Theatre & Education (AATE) in a virtual ceremony held Thursday, July 30.

The award honors an individual for a lifetime of outstanding contributions to the field of arts education. Colby was nominated by Assistant Professor Bethany Nelson, graduate program director for Theatre Education.

“Bob Colby’s contributions to his field only rival those to his college,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michaele Whelan wrote of her colleague, who has filled a number of leadership positions on campus in his 43 years on campus.

“As a professor, graduate program director, mentor, president of Faculty Assembly and the faculty union, and now as department chair, he has dedicated himself to theatre education and to service,” Whelan wrote. “His achievements are stellar, his talent abundant, his influence far-reaching. We congratulate him on this well-deserved lifetime achievement award.”

Colby teaches theatre education, theatre for young audiences, and directing. His productions for young people have toured throughout New England and have been performed at conferences around the country. He holds an MA in Drama Theatre for the Young from Eastern Michigan University and an Ed.D. in Human Development from Harvard University Graduate School of Education. His work has been published in Children’s Theatre Review, Youth Theatre Journal, and 2D: Drama/Dance.

Earlier this year, the Spirit of Emerson Committee named its new Kindness Award after Colby. The Committee chose to name the award after the Performing Arts chair, Professor Tom Cooper said at a January Faculty Assembly meeting, because for more than 40 years, Colby has been unfailingly generous with his time and talent.

“Although there are many types of kindness, perhaps the one that puts kindness most to the test is a commitment to unlimited support, eternal availability, and selfless service to others, even when facing great adversity,” Cooper said. 

The Lifetime Achievement Award is the second time AATE has honored Colby. In 2003, he was presented with the Alliance’s Lin Wright Special Recognition Award, who honors AATE members who have “established special programs, developed experimental work, made a distinctive educational contribution, or provided meritorious service thus furthering theatre and drama for young people.”

On hearing the news of this latest honor, School of the Arts Dean Rob Sabal wrote that the award “acknowledges [Colby’s] vision in shaping the field and generosity in welcoming others into it.”

The award, which honors an individual for a lifetime of outstanding contributions to the field of theatre arts education, is named in honor of Campton Bell, a professor at the University of Denver and a founder and past president of the Children’s Theatre Foundation.

The AATE “serves and inspires a growing collective of theatre artists, educators, and scholars committed to transforming young people and communities through the theatre arts.”

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