Robert E. Gard Award | AACT

Robert E. Gard Award

Robert E. Gard Superior Volunteer
Presented to volunteers over 65 who have faithfully served community theatre for over 25 years

2024 Honorees

Stan L. Harr
Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan

Photo of Stan L. HarrStan is a retired choral director with 150 shows in his theatre resumé, dating back to 1960. He began his community theatre career in 1986 with CTM Productions in Madison, Wisconsin, where he worked on 15 shows. Subsequent moves brought him to the Detroit area in 1996, where he has provided music in 13 different venues, most notably Grosse Pointe Theatre, with 54 productions. In each case, Stan says that he is always looking for a way to make the music special, so it heightens the audience’s appreciation of a show. (He has also appeared on stage and done sound, as well.) “I continue to be awed that institutions like church choirs and community theatre survive, even thrive, being done by volunteers on the leftover time and energy they find at the end of a long day,” he says. “It’s the love of the art and the sense of family that make the magic happen—very special, indeed!”

Dr. Rebecca Whited
Huntsville, Alabama

Photo of Dr. Rebecca WhitedRebecca has been involved with the arts since childhood. First introduced to the theatre through church plays, she continued her involvement during her school years, and later connected with community arts organizations, volunteering as needed. She worked in many areas of theatre, particularly musicals, but eventually began working solely with children’s theatre. In 2021, she assisted in the founding of Around the Curtain, a community theatre company focused solely on children. Its mission is to keep the arts as an affordable and accessible option for all children in the community, including classes, workshops, and summer programs. Rebecca volunteers as the company’s Artistic Director, directing the majority of the shows and also serving as Music Director. In addition to work on productions, she teaches the majority of the company’s classes, in order to keep costs down and make the education program available to more students in the Huntsville area.

Rick Johnson
Helena, Montana

Photo of Rick JohnsonRick has been involved with Helena’s Grandstreet Theatre for 27 years, working in almost every area of the theatre’s operations. His associates say that each experience has shown him to be an individual who cares, listens, and proves how involvement in local theatre betters the community as a whole. He has served as light board operator, stage manager, camp assistant, set crew, actor, and usher, as well as hosting guest artists in his home and giving rides to those who need transportation to and from the theatre. He also sponsors the Spirit of Grandstreet Scholarship, a $1000 award given to a senior in high school. Says Grandstreet’s Director of Education Marianne Adams, “He has a large heart, especially towards the young actors in our community that may have a tough life outside of the theatre. He always comes with a smile and never wants to be made a fuss over or be in the spotlight.”

Don Langford
Prescott Arizona

Photo of Don LangfordFor more than 44 years, Don has volunteered his time to community theatre in Prescott. “Most theatres are fortunate to find volunteers with talent, some with dedication or leadership abilities and others with passion,” says AACT’s Arizona state contact Linda S. Miller. “The Prescott Center for the Arts hit the jackpot with Don, who possesses all of the above.” As President of the theatre’s Board of Directors, in 1989 he helped facilitate the hiring of the organization’s first paid full-time Executive Director. He helped establish both the Artistic Development/Play Selection Committee and the Director’s Mentorship program, creating a process for selecting shows to entertain, engage and educate local audiences, and helping bring on board new, better prepared, and trained directors. In addition to his leadership roles, Don has performed in more than 50 productions and directed more than 20, as well as lighting for at least 100 shows.

Arlene Schoenherr
Grosse Pointe, Michigan

Photo of Arlene SchoenherrArlene’s love of theatre is evidenced by her impressive resume of over 50 years at Grosse Pointe Theatre (GPT). She has been active onstage, backstage, in the board room, and in the ticket office. Arlene has served as a director, stage manager, choreographer, makeup artist, set dresser, and props person, and appeared in many featured dancing roles over the years. She is considered one of the theatre’s best ambassadors in the community, often coordinating the sharing of GPT’s props and costumes with local schools and other community theatre companies, and also serves as manager/organizer of the theatre’s storage units. Arlene takes particular pride in the theatre’s 76-year history, and spends considerable time as company historian, maintaining and updating its library and archives. With the skills gained from all these experiences, she mentors younger members of the theatre and students at local high schools with the goal of encouraging young people’s involvement in the arts.

Previous Recipients

2023  Thomas Amick (Chambersburg, PA)
            Martha Cherbini (Tulsa, OK)
            Celia Couture (Tewksbury, MA)
            Susan “Suzie” Dorgeloh (Manchester Center, VT)
            Joseph Ennenbach (La Salle, IL)
            Preston Fry (Shawnee, OK)
            Frank Peot (Sun Prairie, WI)
           Dennis Wickline (Grosse Point, MI)
            Denise Wisneski (Phoenixville, PA)
2022 Dee Baldock (Verona, Wisconsin)
2022 Larry Bernard (Columbia, Missouri)
2022 Alathea Blischke (Midland, Texas)
2022 Emmajean Evans (Grosse Point, Michigan)
2022 Ron and Freida Houck (Newport, Kentucky)
2022 Jean Hardie (Spokane, Washington)
2022 Gayla Kirmer (Spearville, Kansas)
2022 Michael Krickmire (Fairport, New York)
2022 Lynn Nelson (Tupelo, Mississippi)
2022 Rob Rice (Tupelo, Mississippi)
2021 Linda Blystone (Spring City, Pennsylvania)
         Emma Bradley (Grand Marais, Minnesota)
         Jude Knight (Memphis, Tennessee)
2020 Susie Polito (Midland, Michigan)
         Debra Robison (Tupelo, Mississippi)
         Charles Wilson (Lynn Haven, Flor­ida)
2019 Carl and Jane Moore (Midland, Texas)
2018 Joseph Connor (Sandy Spring, Maryland)
         Kathleen Davis (Evergreen, Colorado)
         Pat Heiss (Charlotte, North Carolina)
         David Zacharias (Merced, California)
2017 Sally Barnes (Broken Arrow, Oklahoma)
         Gloria Filean (Des Moines, Iowa)
         Barry Fuller (Memphis, Tennessee)
         Rita Heizer (Billings, Montana)
         Gerri Nichols (Troy, Ohio)
2016 Beverly Allen (Helena, MT)
         Barbara Christensen (Hartland, WI)
         Margi Ritscher (Ansbach, Germany)
         Susan Tucker (Concord, MA)
         Dr. Charles "Bud" Vear (Hillsdale, MI)
2015 Ruth Behrend* (Hartland, WI)
2015 Guy Dillaway (Weston, MA)
2015 Jean Endrizzi (Duluth, MN)
2015 Richard and Elaine Albright (Aurora, IL)
2015 Libby Kafka (Sharon, MA)
2014 Alvin Blasco (Streator, IL)
         Ron McDaniel (Danville, IL)
         Barbara Tarlin (Wellesley, MA)
2013  John Lynn* (Mundelein, IL)
           Charla Rowe (Fort Washington, MD)
           Richard Sherwin (Tallahasee, FL)
2012  Don Mansfield (Jackson, MI)
           Judi Schweppe Johnson (Eugene, OR)
           Richard C. Whaley (Annapolis, MD)
2011  Geri Becker (Venice, FL)
           Wayne Pressnall (North Platte, NE)
           Bennett Wood (Memphis, TN)
2010  Arthur Delo, Jr. (Jersey City, NJ)
          Martha Kovacsi* (Bay City, MI)
          Madge Levinson (Toledo, OH)
2009  Rae Cohan (Newport Beach, CA)
         Max Polley (Davidson, NC)
         Willa Wye Rockett (Belmont, MA)

2008 James N. Alexander, III* (Haddon Heights, NJ)
         Peg Brandon (Winter Haven, FL)
         Henry Pope (Walla Walla, WA)
2007  Rosemary Green & Louise Carpenter  (Ocala, FL)
2006  Marge and Ted* Ressler (Dover, DE)
2005  Hal Robinson (Royal Oak, MI)
          Sherman C. Ward, Jr.* (Haddenfield, NJ)
2004  Tom Cowley (Ponca City, OK)
          Jo Pruden (Fort Shafter, HI)
2003  Charlotte Hall (Fort Thomas, KY)
          Fred Normand (Rome, NY)
           Isabella Ward (Dover, DE)
2002  Paul Sturner* (Tonawanda, NY)
2001  Heddie Kent (Concord, MA)
2000  Jane Margison (Riverside, CA)
           Robert Montgomery (Bremerton, WA)
1999  Betsey Reeder (Memphis, TN)
1998  Dottie Griffith (St. Joseph, MI)
1997  Jean Mitchell* (Grand Rapids, MI)
1996  Holley R. Webster* (Wallingford, PA)
1995  Ruth Cole* (Midland, TX)
1994  John Edmands* (Racine, WI)
1993  Firth Chew* (Spokane, WA)
1991  Mary Dwyer* (Sheyboygan, WI)
1990  Dick Brown* (Des Moines, IA)
1989  Mary Peckham* (Omaha, NE)
          Lil Williams* (Ardmore, OK)
1988  Alice B. Rogers* (Memphis, TN)
          Hilda Greenquist* (Racine, WI)
1987  Peggy Greene* (Topeka, KS)
1985  Roberta Kendrick* (Minneapolis, MN)
1984  Emma & Alan* Bowlsby
          (Indianapolis, IN)
1983  Ruth Kenyon Tate*
          (North White Plains, NY)
1982  L. K. Boutin* (Des Moines, IA)   *Deceased0152015 2015

Robert E. Gard

This award is named in honor of Robert E. Gard, because of his lifetime commitment to theatre at the grassroots level. He taught playwriting at the University of Kansas and at Cornell, became a fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation, Humanities Division, and remained a fellow, and held numerous Rockefeller Foundation grants for many years. He later helped to found, with Professor Alexander M. Drummond, the New York State Playwriting Project, and helped to establish a statewide training program for New York State playwrights. In 1945 he received an offer to join the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, where he established the Wisconsin Idea Theatre Conference. He remained as director of Arts Development until, at age 70, he retired from all administrative duties. Gard founded the National Community Theatre Center in 1958 and conducted a national survey of the American Community Theatre in 1957-1958 for the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1967 Gard led a team, which surveyed the American Theatre for the National Theatre Conference. In 1967 he received the first large grant made by the National Endowment for the Arts for work with smaller communities.

Gard's list of citations is long: Kansas Theatre Hall of Honor; Pabst award for service to nationality groups; Distinguished Citizen Award from the Governor of Wisconsin; Member of the Finnish national Academy of Sciences and Letters; National Chairman of Fulbright Theatre Committee; Distinguished Service Award, Wisconsin Theatre Association; and many other awards and citations. The Robert E. Gard award was established in 1982, following Gard's offer to fund a "superior volunteer award" to be given annually to one or more persons who have served their theatres faithfully for many years in an unpaid capacity.  ACTA (later AACT) decided to name the award in Professor Gard's honor.


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