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Past Presidents
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Scroll down to read the biographies and learn about the accomplishments of ATHE's Past Presidents.

Patricia Ybarra | 2015-2017
Brown University

Patricia Ybarra is the author of Performing Conquest: Five centuries of Theater, History and Identity in Tlaxcala, Mexico (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2009) and co-editor with Lara Nielsen of Theater and Neoliberalism: Performance Permutations (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). Her current manuscript in progress is Latino/a Theatre in the Time of Neoliberalism, which us under contract with Northwestern University Press. She is President-Elect of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. Her area of specialization is theatre historiography of the Americas, with emphasis on the relationship between theatre, nationalism, and American identities in North America. She is also a director, dramaturg and the former administrator of Richard Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric Theatre.

Henry Bial | 2013-2015
University of Kansas

Henry Bial is Professor of Theatre at the University of Kansas where he also serves as Director of the School of the Arts and Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He holds a PhD in Performance Studies from New York University and a BA in Folklore and Mythology from Harvard University.

Bial is the author of Playing God: The Bible on the Broadway Stage (University of Michigan Press), and Acting Jewish: Negotiating Ethnicity on the American Stage and Screen (Michigan). He is also the editor of The Performance Studies Reader (Routledge), co-editor with Scott Magelssen of Theater Historiography: Critical Interventions (Michigan), and co-editor with Carol Martin of Brecht Sourcebook (Routledge). He has published articles in journals such as TDR, Theatre Topics and The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, as well as several book chapters, reviews, and encyclopedia entries. A proud member of the Buran Theatre Company, Bial was last seen on stage as The Man in the Purple Suit in 2015’s encore presentation of The House of Fitzcarraldo at The Brick in New York City.

Accomplishments of Bial’s Presidency

  • Reemphasized ATHE’s role as a leader in the field of theatre in higher education through increased data-collection and field-specific advocacy.
  • Spearheaded adoption of a formal policy governing conference site selection.
  • Reintroduced the tradition of a Presidential Address to the Annual Membership Meeting.
  • Managed transition to new executive director, management firm and member-services platform.

William J. Doan | 2011-2013
Pennsylvania State University

ATHE Immediate Past President William J. Doan holds a BA from Gannon University, an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University. Doan co-authored Prophets, Performance and Power, published in 2005, and Twice Used Songs: Performance Criticism of the Songs of Ancient Israel in 2008, with Terry Giles. Doan has had two performance works premiere at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, was the 2010 artist in residence with his play Bud’s Last Prayer at the Mizzou New Play Series and is developing a new solo show titled Not Self Inflicted. He is currently working on a community based theatre project funded by the National Science Foundation centered on the risks and rewards associated with Marcellus Shale gas development in Pennsylvania and is also at work on a new book project archiving and documenting the work of Bill Irwin. Doan is a professor of theatre in School of Theatre at the Pennsylvania State University and served as President of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education from 2011-2013.

Steven Peters | 2007-2011
Friends University

ATHE Past President Steve Peters is Dean of the College of Business, Arts, Sciences and Education, and Professor of Theatre at Friends University. He recently served as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Research for the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts at Wayne State University in Detroit. Peters is an administrator, theatre educator, director and arts advocate whose own research agenda examines performance in everyday life. Peters earned his Ph.D. in Theatre/Arts Administration at Texas Tech University in 1986. Since then, he has conducted and presented research on conflict management, the competing values of collaboration, and arts entrepreneurship at professional meetings across the country.

Peters has served in several key leadership positions in ATHE. Under his leadership as President, ATHE convened its annual conference in 2008 to focus on "difficult dialogues," the 2009 conference to foster innovation in theatre education, and its 2010 conference to explore new strategies for theatre departments at the intersections of theatre and media. He currently serves on the Professional Development Committee task force to update ATHE's Guidelines for Tenure and Promotion. Peters served two terms on ATHE's Governing Council as Chair of the 2005-2009 Strategic Planning Committee, Vice President of Membership and Marketing, Vice President for Conference 2001, Chair of the Nominating Committee, and Representative for the Directing Focus Group. He is a graduate of the ATHE Leadership Institute, and serves on the Innovations and New Directions Committee of the International Council of Fine Arts Deans (ICFAD).

Peters' most recent research investigates the relationship between art making and family-centered medicine. He is Co-Principal Investigator of a cross-disciplinary research model at Karmanos Cancer Institute and Children's Hospital of Michigan. His research team integrates a social scientific perspective with the humanistic perspective of performance studies to better explain how parent-child interactions during an art making activity prior to pediatric cancer treatment affect parent-child moderate or heightened treatment-related anxiety and ultimately affect health outcomes of pediatric cancer patients.

Peters lives in Andover, Kansas, with his wife Sandy and sons James and Matthew.

Karen Berman | 2004-2007
Georgia College and State University

Karen Berman served as President of ATHE from August 2004 to July 2007 and served as ATHE's Vice President for Advocacy from August 2001 to August 2003. She was Co-Chair and Chair of the Advocacy Watch Subcommittee from 1998 to 2001, in which she developed the first Governing Council approved Guidelines for Advocacy Watch. She is a graduate of the first class of the ATHE Leadership Institute. She has been a coordinator and panelist on numerous conference sessions including "Exemplars of Theatre Education Training Programs" and "Advocacy and Activism on the Capitol and Campus Steps." Karen is co-founder and Artistic Director of a theatre company, Washington Women in Theatre, which has produced at the Warehouse Theatre, Millennium Stage of the Kennedy Center, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Karen was Director of SourceCast where she cast some 400 Washington area actors in commercials, industrials and films. She served as Associate Producer at Source Theatre for over six years. Karen also collaborated with David Young on the book How to Direct a Musical: Broadway Your Way published by Routledge.

Karen has directed over 70 productions for venues ranging from the Smithsonian to off-Broadway. Her off-Broadway credits include, at the American Theatre of Actors, Ziggy and Ballet Russes, which starred Twyla Tharp Company member Petter Jacobsson as Nijinsky. At Source Theatre, in addition to receiving the "Most Valuable Player Award," she directed numerous plays, including Cynthia Heimel's A Girl's Guide to Chaos, Shamanism in New Jersey, Last Stand of the Polish Sharpshooters, and Hot Rod Aliens from Hell. Karen directed Tony Kushner's new adaptation of Ansky's A Dybbuk and Rootabaga Country, a new adaptation of Carl Sandburg's "Rootabaga Stories."

Karen holds a B.A. in Theater from George Washington University and an M.F.A. in Directing from Catholic University of America. Karen has also directed numerous university theatre productions, including Woyzeck, Six Characters in Search of an Author, and Ah! Wilderness at Catholic University, The Glass Menagerie at American University, and The Balcony and Dr. Korczak and the Children at Georgetown University.

She taught at Georgetown University for fifteen years and is currently Theatre Chair and Artistic Advisor of Theatre Programs and Associate Professor at Georgia College & State University. She was a 2008 inductee in the College of Fellows of the American Theatre.

Accomplishments of Berman's Presidency

  • ATHE's Domestic Partner Benefits Position Paper disseminated to universities across the country.
  • Strengthened affiliations with Black Theatre Network including joint creation of the Katrina Project to provide financial support and workshops to aid students and theatre programs damaged by natural disasters such as the devastation in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina.
  • Organized a summit of numerous like-minded theatre organizations to collaborate and coordinate advocacy work on behalf of the arts and arts education.
  • Co-founded the Coalition for Theatre Education (CFTE) in which ATHE and other like-minded organizations coordinate advocacy work on behalf of the arts and arts education and which resulted in the jointly sponsored Freedom of Expression White Paper disseminated to K-12 and Higher Education.
  • Oversaw major redesigns of ATHE's logo and website.
  • Enhanced communication between Focus Groups (FG) and the Governing Council with monthly ATHEWIRE updates and regular direct year-round contact between President and FG Representatives.
  • Created a 20th anniversary archival DVD of ATHE's first 20 years.

Kurt Daw | 2001-2003 and 2003-2004
SUNY New Paltz

Kurt Daw is the Dean of the College of Creative Arts at San Francisco State and is a nationally recognized expert on Shakespeare in performance. Previously, Daw served as Dean of the School of Fine and Performing Arts at the State University of New York – New Paltz and the founding chair of the Department of Theater at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta.

In 2001-2002 Dr. Daw was a fellow with the American Council on Education (ACE), a program that allowed him to study with university presidents from across the nation for a year. He worked in the offices of President Scott Colley at Berry College and Dr. Betty Siegel at Kennesaw State University, and visited and studied numerous other campuses.

Daw is the author of two widely-adopted textbooks, Acting: Thought into Action and Acting Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, and with Julia Matthews, A Guide to Scenes and Monologues from Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, all published by Heinemann. Kurt has twice been a fellow in National Endowment for the Humanities seminars on performance at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Dr. Daw has directed professionally for both theater and opera companies. He holds particular expertise in directing Shakespeare. His productions have included Anthony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Comedy of Errors, The Tempest, and Henry V.

In addition to serving as the president of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, he has also been the presiding officer of the Council of Theater Chairs and Deans. He is married to soprano Hillary Hight, and is the proud father of one son, David, a recent graduate in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University.

Accomplishments of Daw's Presidency

  • Developed partnerships with other organizations, including the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and the Multimedia Educational Resource for Online Teaching and Learning (MERLOT)
  • Led the organization through the period after the tragic loss of Marvin Sims, ATHE's 10th President
  • Ensured the preservation of Marvin Sims’ legacy

Marvin Sims | 2003
Deceased, formerly of Virginia Commonwealth University

Marvin Sims was the 10th President of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and died near the beginning of his presidency in 2003. Marvin Leon Sims was born July 9, 1948. In his career he impacted tens of hundreds of students and theatre professionals nationwide. Marvin was Head of Performance at Virginia Commonwealth University and taught acting, directing, African American theatre history, and dramatic theory and criticism courses. He was President of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) and served as President of Black Theatre Network from October 2002. Marvin attained a BA from Capital University, an MA from Miami University, an MFA from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and completed doctoral studies at Michigan State University. Marvin taught previously at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign and at Eastern Michigan University.

Accomplishments of Sims’ Presidency

  • Established the strategic planning process and committee for the development of the next ATHE strategic plan
  • Strengthened the collaboration of ATHE and BTN through reciprocal conference agreements

Donna Aronson | 1999-2001
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Donna Aronson has served the academic community since 1974 when she began teaching at the University of Texas at Austin. Aronson earned her B.F.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University, her M.F.A and Ph.D. from Florida State University. She served as a five-college professor (1979-82) and taught in the graduate Actor Training program at Brandeis University (1982-1989). She moved to Incarnate Word College (now the University of the Incarnate Word) in 1989 as the Director of Theatre. She served as the Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the University of the Incarnate Word and is now the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota.

Aronson has served as an active member and officer in numerous professional and academic associations supporting the arts. Donna has served on the Association for Theatre in Higher Education's (ATHE) Board and Governing Council in a number of roles: the first Forum chair, VP for Conference 1988-89, and 1995-96, Secretary 1991-92, President-elect 1997-99, President 1999-2001, and Past President 2001-2002. She also served as a member of the Board of the Voice and Speech Trainer’s Association (VASTA). She served as a member of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences Issues and Resolutions Committee and Program Committee. Aronson has chaired and served as a member on numerous university, state and national committees. She served a term as president of the faculty at UIW.

Accomplishments of Aronson's Presidency

  • Worked to develop sound fiscal practice and increasing membership.
  • Helped establish Latina/o focus Group.
  • Nominated the first president of color, Marvin Sims
  • Solidified connections with sister organizations through a combined conference; Represented ATHE at a summit of presidents.
  • Celebrated scholarship by chairing and producing ATHE white papers for defining scholarship for theatre.
  • Established graduate student representation in leadership permanently by making the Graduate Student Task Force the Graduate Student Subcommittee of the Professional Development Committee
  • Published the re-issue of the Handbook for Theatre Chairs and Deans which is used regularly by the participants in the ATHE Leadership Institute.
  • Established first David Mark Cohen Award with KC/ACTF (2000)
  • Encouraged leadership in membership and in ATHE with the development of the Leadership Institute in 2000

Jill Dolan | 1997-1999
Princeton University

Jill Dolan is a Professor in Princeton University's Department of English and the Program in Theater and Dance of the Lewis Center for the Arts. She began teaching at Princeton in 2008, arriving from the University of Texas at Austin, where she held the Zachary T. Scott Family Chair in Drama and headed the Department of Theatre and Dance's MA/PhD program in performance as a public practice from 1999-2008. She was inducted into UT's Academy of Distinguished Teachers in Fall 2006, after winning a College of Fine Arts teaching award earlier in her UT career. During her six years on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, from 1988-1994, Prof. Dolan won the William Kiekhofer Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Dolan is the author of Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theatre (University of Michigan Press); Geographies of Learning: Theory and Practice, Activism and Performance (Wesleyan University Press); Presence and Desire: Essays on Gender, Sexuality, Performance (Michigan); and The Feminist Spectator as Critic (Michigan). She has written numerous articles and essays on feminist and lesbian theatre and performance, on performance studies, and on arts advocacy, democracy, and social change. She co-edits the "Triangulations: Lesbian/Gay/Queer Drama/Theatre/Performance" series at the University of Michigan Press with David Roman.

Dolan is a past president of the Women and Theatre Program, also of ATHE. She is the former Executive Director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she taught in the PhD Program in Theatre from 1994-1999. Dolan's blog, "The Feminist Spectator," can be accessed at She holds a PhD in performance studies from New York University.

Accomplishments of Dolan's Presidency

  • Increased ATHE's advocacy activities under her leadership.
  • Increased visibility in the national arena as a professional organization.
  • Improved cooperation among focus groups and the Governing Council.
  • Improved participation rates of senior scholars at conferences
  • Encouraged the participation of graduate students in key positions in the organization
  • Attended to graduate student needs and issues through the development of the Graduate Student Task Force.

Mark Heckler | 1995-1997
Valparaiso University

Mark Alan Heckler is the 18th President of Valparaiso University (Indiana). He previously served as Provost and Vice Chancellor for the University of Colorado Denver. He has completed the American Council on Education's Institute for Chief Academic Officers and Harvard's Institute for Management and Leadership in Education. Heckler has over 100 academic and professional productions to his credit, including performances throughout the United States, Europe and the Middle East. Other global initiatives have included international education development in China, Russia, Germany, Italy, Nepal, Mongolia and Taiwan. He was founding Dean of the College of Arts and Media at the University of Colorado Denver and has served ATHE in multiple leadership roles, including president.

Accomplishment of Heckler's Presidency

  • Led redesign of ATHE administrative and governance structure.

Carole Brandt | 1993-1995
Southern Methodist University

Carole Brandt retired as Professor of Theatre, Dean and Algur H. Meadows Chair Emerita of the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU in Dallas. She also served as Head of Theatre at Penn State, Chair of Theatre at the University of Florida, and Director of the School of Drama at Illinois Wesleyan University. Currently, she is the President and five-term board member of the National Association of Schools of Theatre as well as President of the National Theatre Conference and member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. She is Past President of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Past National Chair of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and Dean Emerita of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre.

Over the course of her 12-year Meadows deanship, Dr. Brandt was instrumental in raising over $120 million for the School of the Arts and increasing the Meadows endowment by over $100 million. She planned and built a new museum and television complex, commissioned a signature sculpture by Santiago Calatrava, and bought an El Greco at auction. Dean Brandt was named "Commander of the Order” by the government of Spain when she was awarded the Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel la Catolica, the highest distinction granted by Spain’s Office of Foreign Affairs. She also received four Kennedy Center Medallions of Excellence for Contribution to Higher Education as well as the Dallas Historical Society Award for Excellence in Creative Arts.

Dr. Brandt has directed approximately 200 professional and academic productions over her 48-year career, and she served as Executive Producer and Artistic Director of Pennsylvania Center Stage for seven years. Dr. Brandt retired from the SMU Meadows deanship in 2005.

Accomplishments of Brandt's Presidency

  • Appointed visionary task forces to examine issues facing the profession and to make ATHE a year-round organization.
  • Developed strategic and long-range plans.
  • Selected a professional management company, rather than using volunteer management.
  • Downsized involvement of Theatre Service.
  • Reconfigured the association’s work year.

Gil Lazier | 1991-1993
Florida State University

Dr. Gil Lazier is Dean Emeritus of the Florida State University School of Theatre, where he served as Dean from 1982 to 1999. From 2001 to 2004 he was Director of the FSU/Asolo MFA Conservatory for Actor Training in Sarasota. He is currently Artistic Director of the Banyan Theater Company, a professional theatre in Sarasota, FL., where he lives with his wife, Kathryn.

Dean Lazier has served his profession in leadership roles for many years. For example, he is Past President of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and served on its Board of Governors for nine years. He is Past Vice President of the International Theatre Institute/US and member of the Education Committee of ITI Worldwide. He has served as a Commissioner for the National Association of Schools of Theatre, was on the Board of Governors of the National Theatre Conference, and is currently Dean of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre.

As a theatre artist, Dr. Lazier has directed 50 productions in the U.S. and abroad including musicals, new works and classics by such masters as Albee, Brecht, Chekhov, Coward, Ibsen, O’Neill, Pinter, Shakespeare, Sophocles, Stoppard and Williams. In Moscow his production of Neil Simon’s I Ought to be in Pictures played for over ten years in Russian. He is a specialist in theories of acting, especially those of Stanislavski. He is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.

Jim Symons | 1989-1991
University of Colorado, Boulder

James Symons holds the Ph.D. in Theatre from Cornell University and is a professor of theatre at the University of Colorado at Boulder. A CU faculty member since 1984, he was the department chair from 1984-1999 and is now the Director of Graduate studies.

Symons has directed at CU and at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, where he has directed nearly all of Shakespeare's classics and served as the producing artistic director (1995). Symons's publications include Meyerhold's Theatre of the Grotesque, which received awards from the American Theatre Association and the Theatre Library Association, and a chapter on the evaluation for promotion and tenure in the Handbook for Theatre Department Chairs.

In addition to his presidency of ATHE, Symons served on the ATHE Board of Governors (now the Governing Council) from 1987-1993, as president of the Association for Communication Administration from 1989-90, and on the executive committee of the American College Theatre Festival from 1987-1989.

Harold Nichols | 1988
Mississippi State University

Dr. Harold "Nick” Nichols is Dean of the Meridian Campus of Mississippi State University. In this role, he is currently managing a $25 million restoration of an 1890 historic theatre and an adjoining 1890 department store, which is being turned into a conference center (go to for more information), opening in September 2006. Dr. Nichols received his Ph.D. in Theatre History from Indiana University and his B.A. in English and Speech from Iowa State University. He began his career at Kansas State University and served as Head of the Department of Speech from 1984-1993. He then served as Dean of the College of Fine Arts and Humanities at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgia Southwestern State University before moving to Mississippi State. He participated in the development of ATHE from its inception and was its second President. He chaired the committee which wrote the Association’s initial bylaws, and he helped create and administer the financial plan that brought ATHE from having no money to an annual budget of over $100,000, with an escrow account of $100,000.

Beverley Byers-Pevitts | 1986-1987

Beverley Byers-Pevitts retired as President and CEO of Park University in Kansas City, MO, and a Professor of Performing Arts. Her career includes positions as Chair and Director of Graduate Studies in Theatre Arts at the University of Nevada, Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of Northern Iowa, and Provost, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Interim President of Texas Woman's University.

President Byers-Pevitts received her B.A. from Kentucky Wesleyan College and her Ph.D. and M.A. degrees from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.Her postdoctoral study was conducted at the Institutes for Higher Education at Harvard University. She is a recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Kentucky Wesleyan College. Dr. Byers-Pevitts is a professionally produced and published playwright, in addition to numerous articles published in educational journals and books and has lectured widely.

She served as founding President of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE); as President of the Women's Program of the American Theatre Association, and as the first editor of the ATHE Journal, Theatre Topics. Dr. Byers-Pevitts founded the first national conference for Women in Theatre and co-coordinated the first three conferences with funding from the Ford Foundation. She is a member of the League of Professional Theatre and the National Theatre Conference.

Among her numerous awards and honors Dr. Byers-Pevitts has received the Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival Award for Excellence and the Distinguished Theater Alumnus Award for

Outstanding Achievement as Artist/Administrators at Southern Illinois University with Bob Pevitts.

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