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June 2004
News & Notices
News From:
Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record

Dave Will, left, accepts a plaque recognizing his service to the Management Commission from Richard Durst, Past President.

Comments by R. Michael Gross


David Will Steps Down As Management Commissioner

David Will, long time Management Commissioner, was honored at the 2004 Annual Conference in Long Beach.

Below are the comments of R. Michael Gros, made to the Management Commission meeting, in recognition of Mr. Will’s service to the Commission and the Institute.

As a former Commissioner, and more importantly as a friend, I stand in recognition of Dave Will’s service to the Management Commission and the Institute. It is a pleasure and an honor to have been asked to make a few comments today. We all speak of the volunteer nature of organizations such as ours and we often fail to adequately acknowledge that to volunteer with USITT, especially in a leadership role, is to take on a second job. Volunteering is done for a variety of reasons.

While I can not speak for Dave’s motivation, I can, after many years of working with him on various projects, address why I believe Dave has performed yeoman’s service for these many years.

A little background is necessary before I continue. I met Dave at a Leadership and Management pre-conference workshop more than 15 years ago at my second USITT conference.

Bill Flynn, then Management Commissioner, and Co-Presenter with Larry Christiansen, spoke about the volunteer nature of USITT, how it serves working professionals as well as students, and how it is driven in response to an engaged membership. He also, while trailing out the lure before all of us in attendance, noted that one of the prime obligations of a leader is to identify and mentor his or her potential replacement.

So Dave and I, sharing those values and beliefs, took the bait, and we were hooked. I had the honor of serving from 1992 to 1996 as Commissioner following Bill’s term, with Dave coming on board as a Vice-Commissioner. While much of what follows was conceived or initiated while Dave was Vice-Commissioner, it was under his leadership, begun in 1996 and continuing through 2003, that the ideas were either put into motion or fully realized.

Among those were the Stage Management Mentor Project (conceived by Elynmarie Kazle); the deepening of our commitment to safety, production management, senior organizational management, and gender issues; broadening our Commission’s reach and commitment to current and future managers in such non-traditional theatre or educational theatre environments such as road houses, themed entertainment, cruise lines, and corporate/business theatre; and continuing efforts to address professional development needs of middle and senior managers, and especially to encourage and support those members aspiring to such positions within the entertainment industry through a long-term commitment to expand formal training through the expansion of the Leadership Academy concept.

When we look at where our membership was in relation to the life of the Institute back in the late '80s and early '90s and compare that with our current impact, you will all see the direct, and I firmly believe, the extraordinarily positive impact the Management Commission, under Dave’s leadership, has had on the Institute as a whole.

Currently serving the Institute at the national level are Management Commission members Dave Will, Stephanie Young, Normand Bouchard, Lea Asbell-Swanger, and Elynmarie Kazle.

Other Commission members participate in numerous projects. The role of the Stage Management Mentoring Project, in directly supporting the successful execution of the national conferences, is in of itself a huge impact on the Institute. The commitment by Dave to the Leadership Academy and the formal training it provides to hundreds of current and future leaders is a legacy that will continue to positively impact our industry for generations.

Dave’s personal style is to always volunteer, to bring into his efforts friends and colleagues, and to make new friends and colleagues at every opportunity. He was so instrumental in making sure his staff had the professional development opportunities offered by the Commission that he had received, that I can walk into the Penn State alumni reception and know well about a third of the people in the room!

I’ve become a quasi Penn State alum as a result of the Penn State colleagues and friends I have met through Dave. He loves to speak quietly, almost conspiratorially, in small groups as we discuss Management Commission challenges and opportunities and then he nearly roars with laughter at the lightest excuse - bringing great joy and energy into the work and the room.

In my experience he always praises people publicly and defers any compliments he receives for his volunteer work to those around him. Dave loves what he does and loves the people with whom he associates.

He is known to use the cocktail lounges at conferences as meeting rooms for commission business, which of course is appreciated by those he recruits to his meetings.

With one rare exception, and that being opening weekend of deer hunting season, Dave is always available to return calls. I also recall the one time I nearly made him cry when we held a phone conference discussing Commission business, and I told him I was stuck at Pebble Beach resort with nothing to do (my wife, Kris, was producing a large business event at the resort that weekend) because a flood from a recent rain had cut the bridges and roads leading off of the peninsula..

It was then that Dave learned that, though the sun was currently shining, I didn’t play golf. He nearly died!

In closing, I want to thank Dave for his years of support of me when I served as Commissioner, for his wonderful leadership of the Commission for many, many productive years, his commitment to future generations of theatre managers, and to our friendship and the many friends he has brought into my life.

And remember, don’t call him on opening weekend, but you can always conduct business with him on a golf course.

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