By Katherine Gibson ’08
As a high school speech and theater educator, my life revolves around my school community. I want to provide my students with the knowledge, drive and passion to pursue their greatest interests when they move on to the next phase of their lives. Many times I visited Drury to watch my former students perform on the stage where I once did the same. I know that I would have never been able to fully express myself at Drury on stage, as a stage manager, or as a director without the guidance of my professor Mr. Robert Westenberg. Mr. Westenberg or “Westie,” as theatre students affectionately know him, is like a father figure.
When I was a cast member in “Steel Magnolias,” I specifically remember a rehearsal where my head was not in the work. I was dropping lines and missing cues everywhere. I could tell that Westenberg was frustrated. My life outside of college was affecting my rehearsal. After we finished for the day and most everyone had left, I started crying. The stage manager and my best friend, who was also a cast member, stayed and talked to me. Westie came back in, hugged me as tight as he could, kissed me on the cheek and told me to use whatever I was feeling on stage.
Even now, as I’m nearing 30 years old and starting graduate school, Mr. Westenberg is still my biggest mentor. When I was questioning my degree path both as an undergraduate and going into graduate school, he was there as a sounding board. He is steadfast in his honesty, completely driven in his work ethic, passionate about the art of theater, and the most awe-inspiring quality to me is that he is humble. I am so excited for my former students who get to have him as professor or director when they study theater at Drury.