Catherine Hurst, a veteran theater professor and director of numerous student productions for Saint Michael's College, will receive the most prestigious regional award of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), she learned recently. Hurst will be presented her Kennedy Center Medallion at a VIP dinner on Jan 29 in Hyannis, MA.
According to regional officials who wrote to inform her of the honor in mid-November -- one was colleague John Devlin of Saint Michael's, a current-co-chair of this region and himself a former winner of the Medallion -- the award "is considered one of the great honors in theatre education."
Each year, the eight KCACTF regions in the U.S. "honor individuals and organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theatre and who have significantly dedicated their time, artistry and enthusiasm to the development of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival," the letter stated. "More importantly, recipients have demonstrated a strong commitment to the values and goals of KCACTF and to excellence in educational theater."
Hurst, who has been at Saint Michael's since 1994, is the immediate past chair of the Festival's Region One and was regional co-chair for three years, from 2011-2014. The other regional Medallion winner this year was Hurst's co-chair in those years, Raina Ames of the University of New Hampshire. Hurst had a leadership position on the Board for eight years before that. She currently serves as regional respondent for KCACTF, traveling throughout the New England and eastern New York region to see college and university theater productions and respond to the faculty/student work in a public forum.
Devlin, who won his Medallion in 2010, primarily for service in the leadership of design, technology and management for the festival, explained how candidates are nominated by the sitting members of the board -- about 20 individuals from New England and Eastern New York. He said Hurst and this year's other winner Ames offered a model of co-chair leadership over their many years of collaboration as leaders that would benefit any region that might now struggle with an overworked single chair.
"The stability of the leadership that Cathy and Raina brought to the region has been reflected in greater financial stability as well as the growth and integration of Eastern New York schools into the region after re-districting about five years ago," Devlin said. "Cathy and I worked closely together on various aspects, particularly on the financial side, for three years and I still will touch base with her when questions new to me come up if I think she'd already found an answer for them. Working together at Saint Michael's and KCACTF has benefited each of us and each institution for our capacity to collaborate."
"As I am walking the walk that she took for the last three years, I am becoming aware of how much time and attention it takes to do the job, and do it well, which she and Raina did for the last three years," Devlin said.
Hurst received her bachelor's degree, cum laude, from Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN, then studied at the Catholic University of America before completing an M.F.A. in acting from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. She was artistic director for the Equity Saint Michael's Playhouse from 1997 to 2003, and has been involved in numerous theater enterprises nationwide as a director, actor and educator through the decades. At Saint Michael's and elsewhere she has taught courses for actors and singers both at the graduate and undergraduate level. Hurst also has many director credits across the U.S. too numerous to mention, and a long record of professional and community service.