Jack Richard Ramsey, a Bertha F. and Bernard L. Cohen Professor of English Language and Literature and Professor of Drama, was a lion of theater at Moravian College for 38 years, from 1970 until his retirement in 1985. Credited with building the Moravian College Theatre Company, he designed and directed 105 productions. Jack led from the premise that students should be presented a broad range of periods and forms of theater.
“From Greek tragedy to Shakespeare to Molière to contemporary theater, he provided a rich experience not only for the actors but for the entire student body,” says Jack’s widow, Madeleine Ramsey, who founded Pennsylvania Youth Theater. “Jack loved the work,” Madeleine says. “He found it challenging—he did sets, lights, sound, often costuming. It was exciting and fun, and of course there were the students.”
They called him Doc, but the familiarity of the moniker belies the respect students had for Jack. “He was the first one there and the last to leave,” says Bill Bauman, who served as Jack’s righthand man from 1982 until Jack’s retirement. “When he battled bladder cancer, he scheduled his treatments around classes and rehearsals. He had a role in our performance of A Flea in Her Ear, and he did it with a walking cast.”
“He had high expectations of his students, and he let them know it,” Bauman adds. “But he looked for the best in everyone, and would draw it out of you.” Julia Attanasio ’07, one of Jack’s students, echoes that sentiment. “He made me realize what I was capable of doing as an actor, a student, and a strong woman,” she says, “and he had this way about him that made you feel that you were part of something really special.”
Jack commanded the respect and admiration of many. At a June 8 service held at Peter Hall in celebration of Jack’s life, more than 120 former students and colleagues came from across the country—Minnesota, Chicago, Arkansas, Boston, New York.
Juno and the Paycock
The Grass Harp
The Servant of Two Masters
I’ve known and loved many people and enjoyed a wealth of experiences, but I can point to only a few that have had as pivotal a role in my life as Jack Ramsey. I had wanted to major in theatre in college, but my parents discouraged it. One factor in my choosing Moravian was the extracurricular theatre program, which would allow me to enjoy my passion, and some of my fondest Moravian memories are of my experiences in the Arena Theatre, where Doc was ever present. He was fun but a curmudgeon—albeit a lovable one—when we were heads down in serious work on a production. And he was difficult to please but not so much so that you lost heart. When Doc was happy with your work, it felt like a million bucks. I can still see the brightness of his eyes and hear his contagious chuckle. He was part quintessential professor, part parent, part friend, and a one-of-a-kind energy I haven’t encountered since.
During my senior year, Doc called me into his office and asked what I wanted to do after school. I told him I had no idea—that I loved the theatre but was graduating with a business degree and didn’t know where I wanted to go other than a city. He said he believed I could make it in theater and that I might like Chicago. This was all the nudge I needed. After graduation, I moved to Chicago to be an actor. There I spent over a decade with an established theater company, enjoyed a successful consulting career, and met the man who became my husband and with whom I started a family. I love my life, and this would not have been my life were it not for Jack Ramsey. I may not have pursued a theatre career as hard as I might have, or as hard as I think Dr. Ramsey would have hoped. But I think he’d be delighted to know that his guidance has taken me to a really beautiful place and a happy life.
—Katie Suib ’05
Dr. Jack Ramsey saw things in me that I couldn’t yet understand about myself at 18. He made me believe I could do anything, even when I was flying by the seat of my pants. My first play with the Moravian College Theatre Company was Look Homeward, Angel, and I was cast as the madame—a far cry from my shy, unsure freshman self, but Jack pushed, prodded, and coached me through that first experience, and I came back for more, year after year. He was someone you didn’t want to disappoint … besides, you didn’t want to get on his bad side. He was a father figure at times. He had my back without me even understanding the full nature of his care and kindness. I am sad. But I am also grateful. But right now, I am really sad. Rest in peace, Doc.
—Miss Karen Stupic ’95 (or Marigold, Matilda, or whatever name he said as he pointed to you while giving stage direction)
Doc instilled in me a light that will forever shine in me as I teach, direct, and perform in theatre. He taught me the ropes and worked one on one with me developing my characters. His caring nature, incredible sense of humor, and love for the arts made me the performer and teacher I am today. Doc has left us, but he will forever be instilled in my heart.
—Vanessa Schukis ’82, mezzo soprano, actress, teacher