Pernell's First Wife: Vera Mowry Roberts

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Pernell's First Wife: Vera Mowry Roberts

Post by A Ponderosa Pine » Sat May 24, 2008 9:05 pm

In 1950, Pernell moved to Washington, DC, and joined the Arena Theatre, the first fully professional resident theatre in the Nation's Capitol. At the theatre he met Professor Vera Mowry, one of its founding members, and a technical director for the Arena. She had earned her Ph.D in Theatre, American Studies, from the University of Pittsburgh.

About Pernell, Vera said "There was a purity there...You couldn't help but feel the truth in his acting." They married in 1951 (Vera was 15 years older than Pernell) and had one son, Christopher, born in October 1951.


In 1952, Pernell, Vera and Christopher moved to New York, where Vera took a job at Hunter College teaching acting classes, a career that lasted fifty years. At this time The Graduate Center of the City University of New York was being constituted. Prof. Roberts chaired a committee to draw up plans for a Ph.D program in Theatre and from thence forward served on the faculty of The Graduate Center as well as Hunter College.

Pernell and Vera divorced in 1959.


By 1970, there was a separate Department of Theatre and Cinema, with Vera Roberts as its Chair - a position she held until 1980. In addition to her teaching at Hunter College and The Graduate Center, she served on a committee of the Division of Humanities and the Arts that attracted a million-dollar grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities In early 1980, she conceived, planned, and implemented a program at Hunter College called Junior Year in New York. It brought students from schools across the country to study at Hunter College and serve internships in various arts organizations in the city. Professor Roberts also served a term as Executive Officer of the Ph.D Program in Theatre at The Graduate Center. She retired from full-time teaching at the end of 1984 but continued teaching part-time at Hunter College until the end of 2004. Her association with The Graduate Center continued, as she advised doctoral dissertations, and, in 1989, conceived, implemented and edited the Journal of American Drama and Theatre (JADT) . At Hunter College, Professor Roberts endowed a scholarship fro an incoming graduate student and, at The Graduate Center, a Dissertation Fellowship.

Over the years, in addition to many articles in professional publications, Vera has written five books (notably On Stage: A History of Theatre, 1962, and The Nature of Theatre, 1972). She has also been active in the civic and religious life of New York City serving on the boards of the YWCA, Playwrights Horizons, Direct Theatre, Teatro Espanol and Presbyterian Senior Services. In 1975, she was the first woman ever to be elected Moderator of the Presbytery of New York City, a division of the Presbyterian Church (USA). She wrote, in 1998, for the bicentennial celebration of the Rutgers in Manhattan (where she has been a member since 1961) its history entitled, The Story of Rutgers Church.


For her various contributions, Professor Roberts was awarded three Presidential Honors: one from Hunter College (1984); and two from The Graduate Center (1990 and 2004). During her long career she was also active in national and international levels of theatre education. She was the International Liaison Officer for the American Educational Theatre Association (AETA) and was also one of a group of five people who conceived and implemented the American College Theatre Festival (ACTF) - she was ultimately awarded three medals for her work in this area. She has been the recipient of career achievement awards from both ATA and the American Society for Theatre Research and in 1972 was elected a Fellow of the prestigious College of Fellows of the American Theatre, In 1973, she was elected President of the American Theatre Association (successor to AETA) and traveled 80,000 miles during that year throughout the US visiting college campuses, regional meetings and symposia, lecturing and consulting. It was at ATA that Vera established a Women's Program, a Senior Adult Theatre Program, and Theatre for the Handicapped Program.


In 2003, on her 90th Birthday, she was feted at a grand reception and dinner at The Graduate Center and on this occasion Vera announced the endowment of a Vera Mowry Roberts Chair in American Theatre.

As far as I know, Vera is is currently living in a nursing home in New York.

A Ponderosa Pine


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