June 29, 2009

Theater educator Martha Dewey killed in car accident

Martha L. Dewey, co-founder and artistic director of the Cornell Interactive Theater Ensemble (CITE), was killed in an automobile accident June 26. She was 55.

Housed in the university's Office of Human Resources, CITE uses theater exercises and audience participation for education in diversity at Cornell and in business and corporate settings. As artistic director, Dewey was responsible for creating material for scenarios and training others in interactive theater techniques.

Mary Opperman, vice president for human resources, said: "We have lost a colleague, a mentor and a friend. Martha's impact on the campus through her role as artistic director and founding member of CITE was profound -- her talents were many and impressive. But the sadness we feel is from having lost someone who added grace and caring to our lives, because she was a genuinely good person. Martha taught us all to care a little more deeply, to show it every day and to be true to our values. She leaves a legacy on the Cornell campus through her work and through her humanity. I miss her."

Dewey co-founded CITE in 1991. In 2001 the organization received the James A. Perkins Award for Interracial Understanding and Harmony, which recognizes the organization making the most significant contribution to furthering the ideal of community while respecting the values of diversity.

A lifelong musician and dramatic artist with a profound interest in religious liturgy, Dewey earned a Master of Arts in Religion degree from Yale Divinity School in 1981. She also had served as guest musical director in Cornell's Department of Theatre, Film and Dance, as well as an instructor in speech communication at Ithaca College.

In 2006 Cornell honored Dewey with the Constance E. Cook and Alice H. Cook Award for her contributions to changing the climate for women at Cornell.

Dewey is survived by her husband, Kent Goetz, professor of scene design at Cornell and former chair of the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance, and three siblings.

A celebration of Dewey's life will be held July 1 at 11 a.m. in Sage Chapel. Immediately following the service, there will be an informal gathering in the Founders Room in Anabel Taylor Hall for light refreshments. Gifts in her memory can be sent to the Tompkins County SPCA, 1640 Hanshaw Road, Ithaca, NY 14850.