Sunday, June 10, 2012

Richard Lippke

Richard Lippke

When I signed on to teach at CVI in 1969, I was a boob from South Dakota. One of the first lessons I learned was that there were more boobies (of the winged kind) in the Virgin Islands, than boobs in the entire states of the land-locked Dakotas, (about 650,000). Interesting -- but relevant?

Lesson 2 - In 1969, no orientation could possibly prepare you for the difficulty you would have in gathering materials, supplies, tools, spaces to store them and to work in, with a flock of willing students to meet you there to build a stage set for my speech and theatre colleague, Jim Duderstadt's proposed (November) production of My Three Angels, a charming play with a Caribbean setting, a good choice. Or so I thought.
Lesson 3 - Mauricio Escardo. The man with the musical name. (All speech teachers know you have to say it aloud to fully appreciate it.) He it was who chaired the Humanities Division and lured me to this special island, and for that I'm eternally grateful. But he couldn't really help me to avoid my pending first semester disaster.

Lesson 4 - Have faith. A gentle giant, Mr. Peets, could and did. Many, many thanks to Mr. Peets, his crew, his boss, and all the other like-minded (faculty and staff), who, when able to help, did.

Lesson 5 - The Show Must Go On? Not true. Unlucky Jim Duderstadt lost a key performer in the play -- the guy totally disappeared from the island, a week before opening, and the production had to be postponed, later cancelled. Very lucky for me, my first-semester capability was not immediately destroyed.

Lesson 6 - When possible, avoid fires on campus, especially indoors. Yes, in late 1969 or early 1970, there was a fire between the Little Theatre and (Mr. Watlington's) the Registrar's Office. I can attest to smoke and soot when I, later, was stringing lighting cables from the stage to the lighting (film, sound control) booth. Some students and I did a readers’ theatre presentation in the theatre, whether before or after the fire, I can not recall.

Lesson 7 - Improvise. I do recall that we (classes, students, and I) were not able to use the theatre for months, so (necessity breeds invention) I improvised an interim "Theatre Service" course (and got a small enrollment). We headquartered -- thanks to many, I'm sure -- in one of the corner rooms (open-air) of the Paiewonsky Library. There, we collectively put together an in-the-classroom-interactive presentation we called "Cp. & Ct." [comparison and contrast] which jibed with aspects of the required basic English course at the time.

To this day, I remember the often wonderful contributions to that project. (Corollary lesson for boobs: never underestimate the capability of your students.)

I was pleased and proud that we few had kept alive the spirit and ideas of theatre at CVI. And then, in 1970, a wee woman, who would become the backbone and spirit of theatre at UVI for twenty-five years, Rosary E. Harper, joined the speech and theatre faculty.

Richard Lippke - 1970 CVI Yearbook
While I was just getting started, these "lessons" must end here. Indirectly I hope it is apparent from them that I learned as much in my five years at CVI as my students could possibly have learned from me. I'd like to thank a long list of students, faculty, staff, islanders, down­ islanders, hosts, artists, landlords (I had two great ones), friends, and friends-of-friends each by name, but this is a UVI anniversary celebration, not the Academy Awards. If you remember me at all positively, you can be sure your name is on my list, or should be.

Though never a great fan of Alfred Tennyson, the English poet, I've always responded to his Ulysses who says: "I am a part of all that I have met." How true that has been in my personal and professional Odyssey, forty-four years as a teacher, especially that five-year adventure from the prairies of Dakota on the island of St. Thomas

Dr. Richard L. Lippke is now Professor Emeritus at Indiana University Southeast. 

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