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UI theatre graduate funds scholarship honoring former teacher

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa theatre graduate Catherine Nacke Cooper of Marshalltown has honored emeritus faculty member Sydney Spayde of Iowa City by establishing an endowed scholarship fund in his name through a gift to the University of Iowa Foundation.

The Sydney Spayde Award Fund is the first UI department of theatre arts scholarship fund for graduate students in the M.F.A. program in directing. The first award of $500 will be made in spring 1998.

Sydney "Syd" Spayde, a 1929 graduate of Northwestern University, came to the UI in 1933 on a Rockefeller grant at the invitation of UI professor E. C. Mabie. Spayde earned his Iowa M.F.A. degree in directing in 1934 and was staff director for the university's theatre arts program until 1937. In the 1940s and 1950s he founded and directed theatre arts programs throughout the country.

Spayde returned to Iowa in 1962 to serve as dean of the fine arts department and director of the Summer Festival at Parsons College in Fairfield. He taught there until 1972. After the college became Maharishi International University, he served as a visiting faculty member from 1978 to 1980, when the campus theater was renamed in his honor. In 1988 the American Association of Community Theatres honored Spayde with the Art Cole Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.

Cooper made her gift to the UI Foundation in honor of Spayde on his 90th birthday. "Syd directed me in Allison's House, my favorite play performed at the UI," said Cooper. "He was a wonderful teacher and had such an insightful, encouraging way of getting students to step into character. I never forgot the experience or Syd. I felt there should be something at the university with his name on it."

After graduating from the UI in 1936, Cooper moved to California, where she was a member of the Pasadena Playhouse and worked in theatre, movies, radio, and early television. She later returned to Iowa, where she now resides.

Cooper expressed hope that other supporters of the theatre arts would contribute to the scholarship fund. Alan MacVey, chair of the UI department of theatre arts, said, "We're tremendously grateful to Catherine Cooper for her gift. The scholarship fund recognizes Syd Spayde's prodigious talents and provides wonderful opportunities for our students to grow as directors."

MacVey was joined by Syd Spayde's wife, Gladys Spayde; son, Jon Spayde; and daughter-in-law, Laurie Phillips; as well as UI Foundation staff and other well-wishers in delivering news of the new scholarship fund to Spayde at his Iowa City home on his birthday, Oct. 17.

Spayde said he was "pleased beyond belief" and recalled the busy, exciting time he spent at Iowa helping E. C. Mabie expand the theatre program. "I certainly remembered Kaye Cooper and her role in the first play I directed at Iowa. She was exceptional. Receiving news of the fund she's helped create was a magnificent birthday gift."

In addition to funding the Spayde Award, Cooper has provided support to other areas of the university, earning her membership in The Presidents Club, the university's highest honor club for contributors. In 1996 Cooper endowed a men's basketball scholarship through the University of Iowa Foundation.

The University of Iowa Foundation is the preferred channel of support for private contributions to all areas of the University of Iowa. Foundation staff work with alumni, friends and businesses to provide scholarships and other forms of support for the UI.

11/25/97