Dance professor retires after 38 years

By Assistant Campus Editor

Courtesy Jim Gingras
Richard Woodbury, associate professor and former associate chair of the Dance Department, is retiring from Columbia after 38 years. He is leaving the college to pursue endeavors in his primary focus of composition and sound design. The first production he will work on is “The Night Alive” at Steppenwolf Theatre, starting Sept. 18.

A familiar face in the Dance Department will be absent when classes start. Richard Woodbury, associate professor and former associate chair of the Dance Department, announced his retirement Aug. 20 after 38 years of service at Columbia.

“I decided that for the next 20 years of my professional life, I wanted to do something else,” Woodbury said.

Woodbury moved to Chicago and joined Columbia as a faculty member in 1976 and served as the associate chair of the Dance Department from 1986–2006.

“For years I was the associate chair of the Dance Department, and I really feel that I had the privilege of serving incredible chairs and faculty members,” Woodbury said.

He said he has always had a focus on composition and sound design, which is what he plans to work on for the next year as he helps compose and design eight major productions for four different theaters.

“It’s not about doing something different, it’s about something I’ve always done but now I’m doing that exclusively and full-time with a renewed focus to relax into doing one thing,” Woodbury said.

Although he is excited to tackle new challenges, Woodbury said he will miss Columbia’s unique identity and connecting with students.

“It’s just so much give and take with students and so much richness in the relationships, watching people develop and grow over the years they’re with us,” Woodbury said. “I will miss that, absolutely.”

He will be working on the production of “The Night Alive” at the Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St., from Sept. 18 through Nov. 16. Woodbury described the show as a funny and moving family drama. “The Night Alive” is set in Dublin and focuses on a young man called Tommy and his friend Doc.

Onye Ozuzu, chair of the Dance Department, said Woodbury was instrumental in the growth and development of the department.

“Richard has been a tremendous member, leader and contributor to the Dance Department and the college for 38 years,” Ozuzu said. “Richard has also been active across the college serving at one time or another on virtually every possible college committee.”

Ozuzu said Woodbury chaired the Faculty Handbook Committee, was one of the authors of the Faculty Senate bylaws and served as senator during the first two years of the Senate’s existence. She said she admires his talent and ability to interact with people. Being a part of the Senate and having that influence and experience is one of Woodbury’s proudest accomplishments, he said.

“His combination of ever-evolving artistic drive, innovation and productivity along with formidable administrative, organizational and visionary skill are woven deep into the structure of our institution,” Ozuzu said.

Woodbury’s career began at Mordine & Company Dance Theater, 1016 N. Dearborn St. He said, along with the Goodman Theatre, the theater is his home.

Shirley Mordine, former Dance Department chair and founder and artistic/executive director of the theater, said she enjoyed working with Woodbury.

“He is wonderfully intelligent and cooperative,” Mordine said. “He’s a wonderful teacher, excellent composer and excellent administrator. He’s multi-talented.”

A reception will be held in Woodbury’s honor Sept. 6 at 4 p.m. at the Dance Center, 1306 S. Michigan Ave. Faculty and students  can RSVP online.