I joined The Theatre School at DePaul University in the fall of 1988 as an Assistant Professor to serve as Head of the Lighting Design Program. After prior faculty roles at two large state institutions I immediately discovered a difference. The institution cared about each and every student. In fact there was no faceless “institution” but rather a group of people in varying roles, all going out of their way to assist and support the individual students. Then I discovered that one could make adjustments and changes to programs in relatively short order. Finally I became aware that there was a common driving force behind the work of the individuals and thus the institution—the mission. After a few years the combination of these elements, along with the quality of the students, staff and faculty that make up The Theatre School, made any other opportunities seem anemic. And, other opportunities were possible right here at DePaul! I served as Associate Dean for a few years, Interim Dean for one year and then Dean – a role I have filled for over 10 years now.
It is in this larger picture role that I have observed the role of the mission and the Vincentian and Catholic values that are behind all that the institution does. Through attending one of the Paris trips with Fr. Ed Udovic I developed a greater understanding of St. Vincent de Paul and all that he stood for. Being of the theatre and thus attracted to drama, I was intrigued to learn that he was a complex individual with some contradictions in his life. I have learned enough about him, his life and work to be intrigued and also to realize that a deeper understanding will be valuable.
As a designer and thus a member of a theatre production team we spend much energy in understanding the world of the play and the characters. The deeper the understanding the more effective we will be in capturing the essence of that context on stage in its most elemental and thus effective form. It is like an iceberg in proportion, the simple and evocative solution is visible to all, the massive work that is not visible is the foundation.
As I take on additional projects in the Provost’s office I feel the need for an even greater understanding of DePaul’s foundations. It will also be informative to learn how others apply the same values and thinking in their institutions and work. I believe the VMI experience will inform these understandings and thus will further enable my ability to serve the institution into the future.