1970s alumni create new theatre and dance fund in honor of Sandy Moffett

August 03, 2020 — Upon his arrival to teach at Grinnell College in 1971, professor emeritus Alexander “Sandy” Moffett recalls being immediately impressed by the quality of Grinnell’s students. “They blew me away,” he says.

The feeling was mutual.

A group of Grinnell College alumni from the 1970s are honoring the profound impact Moffett has had on the careers and lives of generations of Grinnellians by setting up and endowing the Alexander “Sandy” Moffett Fund for Practice in Theater and Dance.

The fund will provide individual Grinnell students with opportunities to perform or direct a theatre or dance project, to intern or apprentice with a company or artist, to immerse themselves in a foreign art medium, or to undertake a host of experiences that will enrich their growth as professionals and as people.

Anne Harris and Trustee Michael Kahn ’74, right, chat with young alums during a campaign event in San Francisco.
A group of Theatre students help Sandy Moffett celebrate his 81st birthday.

Many of the 1970s alums were theatre majors at Grinnell or acted in productions. Several also worked with Moffett in a summer theatre he directed in North Carolina. The fund donors noted that Sandy made a vivid and lasting impression on them during their student years – and he has continued to be an inspiration and anchor in the years since.

A remarkable number of this group have continued their careers in the performing arts as actors, directors, dancers, puppeteers, designers, managers, producers, agents, and playwrights.

“This group is very representative of Grinnell theatre majors who go on to do all sorts of things with their careers – from running theatre companies to a range of other professions,” Moffett says. “I do remember this group very well. Theatre involves a lot of individual work, and acting and directing are interpersonal, so we get to know each other better, perhaps more so than those in other disciplines.”

Since many of the alums had planned to be back in town for Reunion 2020, they had originally set up a cocktail hour to surprise Sandy and his wife, Betty, with the news about the fund. When Reunion was cancelled, a virtual cocktail event was held instead.

“I was surprised and delighted,” Moffett says of the event. “I’ve known these alums for a long time. It’s a group that means a lot to me, and I was moved by their honor and what it will mean for the students. We had a great time that night and reminisced a lot.”

Pictured, from left to right are Bryan Crockett ‘76, Pam (Greenblatt) Crockett ‘76, David Wagner ‘76, Keith Fort ‘75, Jack Couch ‘74, Alice Bernstein ‘76, Mark Anderson ‘77, Betty Moffett, and Sandy Moffett.
A group of Grinnell College alums joined the Moffetts for dinner in New York City, where they had gathered to see a production of The Iceman Cometh at The Brooklyn Academy of Music. Pictured, from left to right are Bryan Crockett ‘76, Pam (Greenblatt) Crockett ‘76, David Wagner ‘76, Keith Fort ‘75, Jack Couch ‘74, Alice Bernstein ‘76, Mark Anderson ‘77, Betty Moffett, and Sandy Moffett.

After teaching six years in North Carolina, Sandy and Betty Moffett arrived in Grinnell in 1971. While Sandy taught theatre, Betty, who is a published author of short stories, helped develop Grinnellians’ writing through her work in the Writing Lab. Sandy has been an integral part of local arts through the Grinnell Community Theater and the Grinnell Area Arts Council. Additionally, both Sandy and Betty are members of Grinnell’s well-known Too Many String Band.

While retired from teaching full time, Sandy continues to teach and direct from time to time. He taught directing last fall and acting in the spring. He likens himself to a baseball utility player. “I don’t want to go back to teaching full time, but a course now and then is delightful.”

As for the Moffett Fund, students can receive funding starting this fall. Any student interested should contact Justin Thomas, chair of the Theatre and Dance Department, at thomasjm@grinnell.edu. Students from all majors and class years are eligible.

In fact, the donors especially want to encourage students to develop collaboration between theatre and dance, as well as with other departments. Students also can work with theatre or dance groups outside the College or (post-pandemic) use community places like parks and schools as performance spaces.

“I’m extremely excited about how this will impact students,” Moffett says of the fund. “I can’t imagine anything that would have made me feel better about my teaching and being at Grinnell.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

While 1970s era alums started the Alexander “Sandy” Moffett Fund for Practice in Theater and Dance, Sandy notes that students from other eras may wish to contribute and thereby provide for additional student experiences. For more information about how to participate, contact Amelia Lobo ’99, major gifts officer, at loboamel@grinnell.edu.

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