Prof. Emeritus of Theatre Bill Hutchinson Honored as Top Educator

P. William Hutchinson

P. William Hutchinson

This fall, the New England Theatre Conference honored RIC Professor Emeritus P. William Hutchinson with its 2013 Leonidas A. Nickole Educator of the Year Award.

The award is named for the former head of musical theatre at Emerson College.

“Bill’s students have often applauded his dedication to the department and his outstanding work” with young actors, said James Taylor, RIC professor of theatre and assistant chairperson for the department of music, theatre and dance. “He cares, and I think this has been his greatest asset here at RIC.”

Taylor, who nominated Hutchinson for the award, added, “Bill’s wisdom and guidance aided me in my service here at the college.”

Hutchinson was professor of theatre at Rhode Island College from 1968 until his retirement in 2004; he continued to teach at RIC undergraduate and graduate courses until 2008. Hutchinson also served as managing director of theatre and as chair of the department of music, theatre and dance.

In his acceptance speech, Hutchinson emphasized his view that teaching has become a performance art.

“In an age of technology and social media, it is often difficult for the student to focus,” Hutchinson said. “The teacher must therefore become a dynamic performing artist in order to convey a new and important idea about his art.”

He also said that teaching does not stop when class is over. Being a mentor to students, Hutchinson said, is as important as being their instructor.

“The best teachers may do as much teaching outside the classroom as they do inside,” he said. “It may be that the one-on-one conversations with a student in one’s office or over a cup of coffee may be even more important than what is taught in a classroom full of students.”

Hutchinson has long been a mentor to former students, including Academy-award nominated actress Viola Davis. The two have remained friends since Davis’s days at Rhode Island College. The New England Theater Conference honored Davis with the 2013 Major Award, which Hutchinson accepted on her behalf.

Another of Hutchinson’s former students, Jimmy Calitri, was honored for his directorial work with Narragansett Pier School’s production of “The Wiz,” which won the Moss Hart Memorial Award.

Outside academia, Hutchinson is well known for his historical portrayals throughout the United States and abroad, including as Roger Williams, Edgar Allen Poe and Thomas Jefferson.

These days, Hutchinson said he is concentrating on collecting alumni materials for the Adams Library’s archives and staying in touch with his former students all over the world.