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Donors Establish University Theater Scholarship to Honor Longtime Professors, Support Students

By Callie (Bentley) Ewing, BA ’03 MH ’22

Drama at UD, as Associate Professor of Drama Stefan Novinski, M.F.A., BA ’92,  put it, is not extracurricular. "It's not a club. It’s part of the curriculum, of the culture; it takes over the conversation on campus for weeks, sometimes years. If you get to work on the University Theater, on a mainstage production, you get to bring something to life that becomes part of the culture of the university.” 

The Patrick and Judy Kelly University Theater Scholarship, recently established by Nancy Cain Marcus Robertson, MA ’00 PhD ’03, and Sanford Robertson, is available to any student who loves theater and wishes to explore and share that love without the necessity of declaring Drama as their major.

At a recent ceremony celebrating the scholarship at which the Kellys and Robertsons were in attendance, Novinski remarked, "[This scholarship] means that [a] student who is still discerning who they want to be, what kind of gifts they want to use and how they want to pursue them, can participate in the culture of this place.” 

He added to the Robertsons, “[Drama] is an instrument of grace, and there is a grace that walks these hills. What you have done is made it possible for grace to work in students’ lives."

President Jonathan J. Sanford, Ph.D., also addressed the ceremony attendees, many of whom were Drama alumni: “One of the remarkable things about our Drama program is that it engages so many students who are not Drama majors. Drama far and away exceeds any other program in terms of pulling people in from many different disciplines.”

Sanford added, “The contemplative dimension of Drama is rooted in what it means to be a spectator. You’re wrapped up in the work in a way that grips you, moves you and changes you. So I want to thank the Kellys for what you are continuing to do at the University of Dallas, now principally through your former students who are carrying the torch so beautifully, and I want to thank Nancy and Sanford for your tremendous generosity, enabling more of our students to have this intimate and transformative experience.”

Nancy Robertson, a longtime, dear friend of Pat and Judy Kelly, spoke generously about the Kellys’ “living example” as teachers. While she was never technically a Drama student, Nancy said, “Pat and Judy have been and remain my teachers. No one more than Pat and Judy has provided a living example of what a Catholic formation does to the human heart and mind and soul, and they were my models; they were exemplars of excellence, of aspiration, of deep, deep goodness, of real virtue, and they certainly remain so. They taught for 42 years and had literally thousands of students, and not a small number of those students became quite distinguished, renowned, on stage and screen. I met some of them, saw some of them perform, and they left quite a legacy at this university and in my life.

“It is a great joy for us to be a part of honoring your very distinguished work at this university and in the world of theater,” she added to the Kellys, “and it’s also a great joy and privilege to support this university at the time of President Sanford’s presidency and his administration; we have great confidence in this university and high hopes.”

Associate Professor of Drama Kyle Lemieux, M.F.A., BA ’98, and Novinski were both former students of the Kellys. As Novinski noted, “The Kellys are figures of grace on this campus, just like this scholarship.”

Professor Emeritus of Drama Patrick Kelly said, “I hope you will indulge me at this very happy event to take just a moment to celebrate the wonderful experience of putting on plays. It’s teamwork like no other, a really meaningful group activity if nothing more, but it is something more, certainly if it is done here at UD.

“Putting on a great play, students and teachers work as colleagues on a team, discovering the life of the drama onstage. It is with heartfelt gratitude that I salute the Robertsons, for ensuring future opportunities for passionately devoted student playmakers to continue this enrichment to the University of Dallas experience.”

Finally, Professor Emerita of Drama Judy (French) Kelly, BA ’63, emphasized this sense of people from all corners of the university coming together to create the work of art and life that is theater: “The idea of a company is what Patrick is describing and what I’m describing; it doesn’t matter what your focus is in the curriculum — the focus is on that play. It’s that company, and when I think of all the alumni here who’ve been part of companies, you know what that’s like, what that tie is.” 

She concluded, “We are so honored, and we’re so taken — it’s very difficult to put into words what we’re going through because it is a scholarship given to exactly what we wanted, all of the students of any major who wanted to come and work on a play.”

Make a gift to the  Patrick and Judy Kelly University Theater Scholarship today, and discover more about UD’s Drama Department.

To learn more about contributing to this scholarship or establishing one of your own, please contact Assistant Director of Development Sarah Sokora, BA ’15, at sdsokora@udallas.edu or 972-721-5131. To see a partial list of existing endowed scholarships, visit our endowed scholarship page.

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