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October 1, 2014

Working to Inspire

by Rebecca Endres

Nicholas Petron, M.A. ’70, professor and chair of Adelphi University’s theatre department, has recently been named the 2014 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year by his undergraduate school Kansas-Wesleyan University.

The award recognizes him as a leader in his field, a title he reacted to with both modesty and reflection. “I’m always looking forward and not backward,” he said. “I never really thought about what’s in my wake.”

Nonetheless, the wake he’s left is impressive. After receiving his master’s in theatre at Adelphi, he went on to perform on stage, in film and later moved onto commercials, voice-acting and directing. From working alongside Al Pacino to doing voice-overs for Sesame Street, he has had a wide range of exciting experiences, leading to his recognition and recent award.

Petron’s emphasis on looking to the future shows in the growth of the department. Having worked at Adelphi for more than 40 years, he has seen many changes, including the construction of the Performing Arts Center, which he says shows prospective students and faculty “this place is serious about the arts.”

However, it is not simply the impressive facility that gives Adelphi its edge in theatre. By selecting students that they feel are best for the program, the department faculty members create what Petron calls a “‘healthy’ atmosphere,” adding that “it’s really cut-throat in a lot of places, but not here.”

Additionally, he called the one-on-one interaction students receive from faculty “critical.” Here, he said, “You’re not a number. Everyone in the faculty cares deeply about the students’ growth as human beings and as artists.”

When asked what constitutes a leader—in the arts or otherwise, he explained that one “needs to have a vision about how to lead a bunch of folks to the future, and to look back only in reverence, but always moving forward, moving forward.”

After all, he feels most individuals involved in the arts are seeking to impact how people think. “We are all trying to change the world,” he said. “We are activists. We all have the power, and it’s a responsibility too, to effect how people feel about things.” Petron’s power to influence and inspire has clearly been recognized, and he will no doubt continue to build a legacy for himself.

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