Donor Voices

Bill Curtis '71

Bill CurtisBill Curtis '71 doubts he would have made it through college without Professor James Carlson.

"Personally, my deep involvement in Professor Carlson’s Theatre Workshop buoyed my spirits during the most difficult three months of my life and kept me on track toward graduation," Dr. Curtis says. "To honor what Professor Carlson meant to me and so many others, I wanted to provide continuing support for Eckerd’s Theatre Department and encourage the participation of non-majors through awarding an annual Professor James R. Carlson Scholarship."

At a special reception in April 2008, Curtis, with wife Janell, announced the scholarship; met its first recipient, Megan Meehan-Draper '10; and relived and celebrated the past with several other Eckerd alumni who came from across the country to honor Professor Carlson’s influence in their lives.

"Back in the turbulent 1960s, Professor Carlson’s Theatre Workshop became the emotional center of the College," Curtis explains. "Unlike most colleges where you had to be a major to participate in Theatre, Professor Carlson opened his workshop to the entire campus, and we came from every department. I was pursuing a combination of Mathematics and Psychology, but I found an emotional home in the Theatre Workshop. By graduation I had performed in 14 plays and directed two others.

"Professor Carlson encouraged us to experiment with theatre and especially to explore the struggle between ethics and the complexities of life," Curtis says. "He was a mentor to so many of us, and through our careers we have taken his Theatre Workshop to the world. The skills we developed on his stage have benefited careers far outside of theatre."

Bill Curtis and his wife, Janell, chose to support scholarships because they know it is more difficult than ever for students and their parents to pay for tuition.

"It is especially important to contribute to scholarships during a recession when the costs of college are most burdensome," Curtis says. "Few factors are more important for the nation’s future than sustaining a large, college-educated workforce. Those of us who have had successful careers want to ensure that finances don’t close the doors to energetic young minds. In particular, I want to ensure they have a chance to benefit from participating in Theatre Workshop regardless of their major."