SUNY Oswego said farewell to a classroom and stage icon when
Theatre Professor Emerita Rosemary S. Nesbitt passed away Aug. 2 at the age of
"Mrs. Nesbitt was a
scholar, author, an extraordinary actress with keen theatrical instincts, and
an historian," remembered Carl
Whidden '75, who played Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol,"
directed by Nesbitt in 1973. Whidden is a 31-year member of Actors Equity
Association, and lives in Pasadena,
His sentiments were echoed
in the remarks at an Aug. 14 event honoring Nesbitt at Oswego's
Breitbeck Park. With the famous Oswego sunset as a backdrop, more than 100
well wishers gathered to celebrate Nesbitt's life, near a monument erected in
her honor years ago by a grateful city.
One of the speakers was Mark Cole '73,
current chair of the Oswego
theatre department and a former student of Nesbitt's.
On the first day of Oral Interpretation of Literature class in his
freshman year, the students asked Nesbitt what textbook they'd be using. She
replied: “There isn’t one because I haven’t written it yet.”
"With the security of a textbook taken away, we hung on every
word of instruction, commentary and example that Mrs. Nesbitt gave," Cole recalled.
"She excelled at this type of class: inspiring students, bringing together
her keen sense of history, her expansive knowledge of literature and her
ability to teach by example. She opened up the world of great works of
literature for her students."
Nesbitt’s influence reached generations of students, including actor, director and syndicated humor columnist Tim Mollen’91.
"She ran her classes
and rehearsals with great intellect, fierce conviction, and absolutely zero
tolerance for nonsense. As my undergraduate career progressed, she became
a committed and supportive mentor," remembered Mollen. "In all of her
students, she instilled the work ethic and habits of a theatre
instilled those values in thousands as she taught theatre and speech at SUNY
Oswego from 1965 to 1993 and played a major role in establishing the theatre
department. She later chaired the department's acting and directing sequences
and directed its children's theatre program.
Professor Nesbitt directed 32 college stage productions;
wrote nearly 20 children's plays and the history books, The Great Rope and Colonel
Meachem's Giant Cheese; and was noted for her storytelling ability,
especially her "Tales of the Haunted
received her bachelor's and master's degrees in theatre from Syracuse University.
After working in professional summer stock, in 1950 she received an acting
scholarship to study in Europe and the following year studied native dance and
theatre in Mexico.
In 1953 she won a fellowship to study Shakespeare at Stratford-on-Avon in England. She
taught at Wells College
before joining Oswego's
faculty. She was the recipient of many community and professional awards,
including the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1972.
In a half
century of calling Oswego home, her community involvements included founding
the H. Lee White Marine Museum, serving eight years as campaign chair for the
local United Way, dedicating time as Oswego's city historian, chairing the
city's sesquicentennial celebration, launching Oswegofest (the forerunner of
Harborfest) and volunteering countless hours for all manner of community and
campus causes. Professor Nesbitt also lobbied successfully for Oswego Town's
Mary Walker to enter the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Read more about Nesbitt's impact on the college community and share memories at Oswego etc., the new Oswego Alumni Association blog.
-- Tim Nekritz M '05 and Michele
Theatre Professor Emerita Rosemary S. Nesbitt, seen here at the H. Lee White Marine Museum that she founded, passed away Aug. 2 at the age of 84.
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