Robert Winters, College of Fine Arts Professor Emeritus, died in Athens, Ohio on Tuesday, August 12. He was 77.
“Robert Winters represented values that are the bedrock of the arts in a public university; commitment to students and the community and an unshakable belief in the power of the arts to make a difference in the lives of people, communities, and economies,” College Dean Margaret Kennedy-Dygas said.
Robert Winters was born in Columbus, Ohio on November 11, 1936. He attended Ohio State University and received a B.A. in theater in 1958 and then continued to Michigan State University for an M.A. in theater in 1962.
Mr. Winters accomplishments and impact on the arts at the College of Fine Arts, Ohio University, Athens Community, and state of Ohio are numerous. To look through a resume of his involvement both on and off-campus would be a considerable read. There is no doubt in anyone who knew Robert Winters that the arts were where his heart was, and he followed that passion during his entire career and far past his retirement.
Most recently Mr. Winters helped to create the Athens Area Citizens for the Arts (AACA) in 2012, serving as the executive director. The AACA is a consortium of artists, arts education organizations, and citizens committed to promoting the value of the arts to a high quality of life, a strong economy, and the achievement of educational excellence in Athens.
“With Bob’s passing, the board has lost a wonderful leader who worked tirelessly to develop and direct the organization,” said Ed Pauley, director of the Kennedy Museum of Art and president of the AACA Board. I can’t recall a time when he wasn’t cultivating a relationship or thinking-up a new idea with the intent of strengthening AACA. He devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to ensure AACA would succeed and thus, be a powerful force for promoting the arts within our region. The AACA board is committed and honored to carrying on Bob’s dream.”
Ohio Valley Summer Theater (OVST) is another organization that Mr. Winters was highly involved in for over 30 years. He started as the scenic designer and technical director in 1963 and then served as a board member, business manager, and managing director and directed more than 30 full productions. The last show he did with OVST was “The Secret Garden” in 2008.
“Bob’s contribution to Ohio Valley Summer Theater is legend,” said Kelee Riesbeck, president of Ohio Valley Summer Theater. “His skills on stage and behind the scenes—as everything from actor to scenic designer to technical director to director—made the community theater experience in Athens special for those in the shows and for the audience. His work touched thousands of OHIO students and Athenians. The OVST board sends its deepest sympathy to the Winters family and celebrates the memory of a great artist, teacher, and mentor.”
Perhaps the legacy that he is best known for is his over 50 years of service with the College of Fine Arts at Ohio University. Mr. Winters started out in 1962 as an instructor in Dramatic Art and Speech where he quickly climbed the ladder to tenured faculty in 1965, assistant professor of dramatic art and speech from 1965-1968, followed by assistant professor of theater from 1968-1972 and associate professor of theater in 1972. He was selected as the acting director of the School of Theater in 1977 and then appointed director of the School of Theater in 1978 until 1986 during which he was named a full professor in Theater in 1980.
He later returned to his directorship role by being named interim director of the School of Film in 1997 and again in 2001. He also served one year as interim director of the School of Theater in 2000. Since his retirement Mr. Winters conducted several classes in Theater and oversaw the student Program to Aid Career Exploration (PACE) Performance Photographers for over 10 years.
“Bob Winters’ legacy to the arts community in Athens and the region will live on for decades,” said Michael Lincoln, artistic director and head of Theater Division. “His memory will live on in the thousands of students and faculty he profoundly affected over his 50 plus career in Athens.”
A memorial service will take place on Sun., Aug. 31, at 4:00 p.m. at the ARTS/West building in Athens. In lieu of flowers, the family will be establishing a place to make donations with which to continue Bob’s work in establishing Athens and her surrounding areas as a hotspot for artistic life — more information about how you can support this effort will be forthcoming. Arrangements are by Jagers & Sons Funeral Home. Please share a memory, a note of condolence or sign the online register book at www.jagerfuneralhome.com.
In addition to his wife, Connie, and three sons, Daniel, Michael, and Jonathan, Bob is survived by his sister Linda Williams and many loving nieces, nephews, and cousins. He will be greatly missed by them and by the many students and faculty whose lives he touched.