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Anne Thurman, Children's Drama Educator, Dies at 92

Former Northwestern professor touched a generation of theatre teachers, students

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April 26, 2012 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Anne H. Thurman, an internationally known drama educator and pivotal figure in the field of children’s theatre, died peacefully in Evanston Sunday, April 22, just short of her 93rd birthday.

An emeritus professor at Northwestern University who joined the faculty in dramatic production in 1971, Thurman was a longtime resident first of Evanston and then of Skokie. After teaching briefly at New Trier High School, she taught drama for many years in Evanston public schools and chaired the Evanston Skokie District 65 drama department from 1963 to 1971.

“Anne Thurman will be remembered as an international authority on drama and theatre education,” said Rives Collins, associate professor of theatre. “She touched a generation of teachers and her legacy will live on in the classrooms of the future.”

A double graduate of what today is Northwestern’s School of Communication, Thurman was drawn to children’s drama in the 1930s on meeting Winifred Ward, who taught at Northwestern. Thurman’s name, like Ward’s, became synonymous with the classroom teaching method known as creative drama.

In 1993, Thurman received a lifetime achievement award from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education and, in 2003, another from the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America. A strong advocate for drama and theatre education, she was active in professional theatre organizations around the country and world. She did as much after retiring as she did before retiring from Northwestern in 1985, Collins said.

“Everyone who encountered this remarkable educator could not help but be touched by her enthusiasm and commitment to quality theatre,” said Dominic Missimi, who until recently headed Northwestern’s renowned music theatre program. “Anne’s passion for theatre for youth was contagious.”

Thurman’s papers, including correspondence between her and Ward, are part of the holdings of Northwestern University Archives.

She is survived by a son, Bruce, and two grandchildren, Justine and William. Private services have yet to be arranged.

Topics: People