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A Well-Earned Curtain Call

Ed. Note: The following story is reprinted here from the College Letter, the newsletter of the College of Liberal Arts. Look for more College Letter stories in upcoming Campus Journal issues.

By Ted Kirkpatrick, Associate Dean
January 31, 2007

Carol Lucha Burns
© Perry Smith, Carol Lucha Burns is a trailblazer, edgy, passionate, a Technicolor charactor—in short, she is the real deal. This year in December, after 37 years on the faculty, she will retire.

So there I was, seated next to the then-chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, halfway to New York on a crowded Friday afternoon shuttle out of Logan. The cabin lights were dim. Most of the other passengers sat in silence, lost in a magazine or nursing a five-dollar cocktail. My companion was a good 20 minutes into an animated monologue on the merits of musical theater, insisting that neglect to take in four Broadway shows in a weekend in the Big Apple constitutes a failure of both will and purpose. Finally, a welcome 10-second pause, only to end in a pronouncement, delivered so that all on board could hear: “Why, musical theater is better than sex!”

I slumped in my seat.

She greeted the applause.

Carol Lucha Burns will retire from the College in December of this year, after 37 years on the faculty. A trailblazer, she was the sixth female colleague in the College to be promoted to full professor. Today, the College has 33 women who hold the highest of academic ranks.

Anyone who knows Carol would be hard pressed to find one more passionate than she about the theater. Her life is theater. Just in the past year, she’s traveled to Southeast Asia to teach young orphans how to find themselves in performance; she’s played sick patients for young medical school students; and put her Screen Actor’s Guild card to proper use, playing an extra in a major motion picture. Her former students include Tony winners, TV sitcom stars, and film actors and actresses. The number of UNH alumni who caught the show business bug from Carol on the Johnson and Hennessey stages are too many to count. Carol, they will tell you, is their beacon of drama, on stage and in life.

Carol Lucha Burns

These photos comprise her current publicity portfolio that she uses to hustle roles. Note the range of expression and persuasion in her eyes. More impressive, however, is what she evokes in you.

For many years in the Dean’s Office, I helped to manage the College budget, including the six years Carol served as department chair. Three days out of five, hers was my first call of the morning, always about one pressing need or another for more money. Trust that I saw each one of those faces when I hesitated. Trust also that her training in method acting was as profitable in the Dean’s Office as it was on the stage.

The College, the University, and the students will miss Carol Lucha Burns more than she knows. She was and is the real deal. A technicolor character of many shadings, she is both subtle and not so, passionate, edgy, fiercely driven, infectious, and kind of heart.

Once, she insisted on attending a talk that I gave in Murkland’s Richards Auditorium. I thought it went rather well. After all had left, a lone person remained seated in the dark at the back. Carol.

“How did I do?” I asked.

“It was ok,” she announced, “but you need to find the light.”

Be well, Carol. Please know how much you’ve meant to this place in your time. You’ve left your mark here, an indelible and lasting one. One hardly needs to tell you, do not go gently as you seek new adventure. And for goodness sake, wherever you are, find your light.

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