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First Lady of Juniata Theatre: Esther Doyle, 96, Passes Away

(Posted August 22, 2006)

Esther Doyle, a longtime member of the Juniata College faculty for more than three decades from 1944 to 1975 and an influential theatre professor who inspired countless Juniata students, died Aug. 11 at The Oaks at Westminster Woods in Huntingdon, Pa. She was 96.
She received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Juniata in 2001 at that year's commencement ceremony.
Doyle, a native of Boston, Mass., joined the Juniata faculty in 1944 as an instructor in English and taught theatre, speech and English for 30 years until her retirement in 1975. Dr. Doyle also performed dramatic readings and coordinated Juniata\'s theatre program throughout her career. Throughout her time at Juniata and after her retirement, she remained an active member of the Stone Church of the Brethren.
Dr. Doyle earned a bachelor\'s degree in literary interpretation from Emerson College in 1935. Prior to that she had earned an elementary education certificate from Boston Teachers College in 1929 and taught at Boston elementary schools from 1929 to 1934 and from 1935 to 1937. From 1937 to 1944, Dr. Doyle taught English at two high schools in New York.
She earned a master\'s degree in English literature from Boston University in 1940, returning to the university every summer while working as a teacher. In addition she attended various summer courses at the University of Denver, Harvard University, Columbia University and Northwestern University from 1943 to 1961. In 1964, she earned a doctorate degree from Northwestern University. In 1944, she joined the American Red Cross Military Welfare Service and worked at U.S. Army hospitals through the end of World War II.
Dr. Doyle was intricately involved in nurturing the arts at Juniata. She oversaw Juniata\'s dramatic productions every academic year and sponsored the Masquers theater club until 1958. She directed many plays and gave dramatic readings locally. She also wrote theater criticism for several area newspapers, including the Huntingdon Daily News. Forner theatre students at Juniata have established the Esther M. Doyle Scholarship in theatre.
She also worked in professional theaters in Skowhegan, Maine and Cambridge, Mass. in 1941 and 1942 respectively. In 1965, she spent a summer directing plays at a professional theater in Raton, N.M.
In 1970, Dr. Doyle was named a Senior Humanist for the Woodrow Wilson Humanities Series, an arts tour that allowed her to travel throughout the country performing an interpretive reading of \"A Man for All Seasons,\" by Robert Bolt, and other works. For much of her academic career, Dr. Doyle would tour for two weeks as a visiting professor of arts for the American Association of Colleges. She would perform an interpretive reading and teach workshops at various colleges around the country.
She was named the Downey Benedict Chair in English and received the Beachley Distinguished Teaching Award in 1973. In 1972, she co-edited a book on the oral interpretation of literature, \"Studies of Interpretation.\"
She served as a hospice volunteer in Huntingdon for the Home Nursing Agency.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.