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News & Notices
In Memoriam:
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Conference & Stage Expo
For the Record
Samuel H. Scripps

Dr. Joel E. Rubin
Founding Chair, USITT International Committee

Sam Scripps, Fellow of USITT, was one of the most unassuming and shy persons you would ever have met. Nor was he given to a lot of words until you engaged him in conversation. Then you would quickly recognize he was a man of humor, intelligence, and perception.

A descendant of the Scripps newspaper family, some of the resources available to him were directed carefully and wisely as philanthropic gifts in the fields of dance and theatre.

Sam encouraged greater recognition of the choreographers of modern dance in providing the annual Scripps Dance Awards, to date the largest single annual awards given in the field of dance. Sam also chose to recognize the importance of supporting the international activities of USITT.

These donations probably stem from Sam's great interest and talent for both design and lighting design for dance and theatre. Sam was always very modest about his extensive background in designing for theatre and dance companies.

His interest in USITT started sometime before 1987 when the Institute was preparing its first all-out exhibition for the Prague Quadrennial. Sam showed up during a USITT Conference at an open meeting of the preparatory committee. We had seen him around USITT, greeting visitors to his AVAB exhibit space (a lighting company of which Sam was at one time a part owner), but no one had assumed that he was an internationalist at heart. "International Activities" had a $3,000 annual budget line in USITT and among other topics discussed in the meeting was our proposed $100,000 budget: the hope was expressed this "would be largely supported by the U.S. State Department's Arts America Exhibits Program and the National Endowment for the Arts".

Shortly after this meeting, where I served as the Exhibit Chair, I received a phone call from Sam in which he inquired what the shortfall of funds would be. The reply "in the order of $30,000" was followed immediately by Sam's response "to whom do I make my check payable?" That was the start of annual donations from Sam for international activities, even more generously in years when a PQ exhibit had to be supported. At the PQ 87 Exhibit in Prague, Sam settled in a chair in the exhibit entry and got great satisfaction out of watching the great number of viewers who came to see the "hot" exhibit of that PQ.

Until recent years when the Institute has found a path towards yearly funding of ongoing international activities and of a PQ Exhibit every four years, Sam Scripps was the principal enabler of all United States PQ Exhibits starting with PQ 87. Additional Scripps donations, provided in successive years, have enabled United States participation at international OISTAT meetings, support of student travel abroad, and other USITT international activities.

USITT has recently announced the naming of its International Fund for Samuel H. Scripps. Nothing could be more appropriate. All of us who worked with this quiet, modest, unassuming man recognize with gratitude the marvelous ways in which he directed both his philanthropy and his wise counsel.

Some words from Patricia MacKay:

Sam was a wise and gentle man with a great heart and quiet passion for our business, craft, and the life of the theatre, dance, and lighting.

We've all benefited from Sam's generosity over the decades, most especially all of us with a "passion for Prague" and the community of OISTAT.

From the New York Times death notice:

Samuel H. Scripps, noted philanthropist, died on February 16, 2007. Mr. Scripps spent most of his life in the theater. In the 1950s he served as assistant technical director at the old Globe Theater in San Diego and the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival (which later became the California Shakespeare Festival).

After moving to New York in 1980, he continued his career as lighting designer for the Riverside Shakespeare Company. He has also worked as a photographer and film maker, working for both the San Diego Zoo and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, which included a four month expedition to the Figi Islands and Tahiti.

With his wife, Luise Scripps, he founded and ran the American Society for Eastern Arts, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to bringing classical performing artists from Asia to America to present performances and workshops. In 1981, he established the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement in Choreography. The award is given annually and is administered by the Association for the American Dance Festival.

Mr. Scripps served on the Boards of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Theater for a New Audience, the Rhinebeck Performing Arts Center and was a major contributor to the Globe Theater project in London.

Mr. Scripps' grandfather, Edward W. Scripps, founded United Press International (UPI) and the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, which at one time was the nation's largest. His father, Robert P. Scripps, was a reporter and correspondent, as well as editorial director of various Scripps-Howard and Scripps-McRae newspapers.

He is survived by his loving wife Luise, his children Wendy and Sebastian, and his grandchildren Welland, Sam, and Katherine Scripps and his brother Robert.

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Samuel H. Scripps

Photo/USITT Archives