Peter Rodney (1948-2012): Theatre Professor’s Love of Teaching was Never an Act

Peter Rodney performing in the CSUDH production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" in 2007. Photo courtesy Tom Marinello

California State University, Dominguez Hills, and the Department of Theatre and Dance have lost one of their leading men. Peter Rodney, professor of theatre arts, died on Saturday, April 14, after a long illness. He was 63.

Rodney was born on April 29, 1948, in New York, New York. A fan of stage and screen from an early age, he was bitten by the acting bug in high school, when he played Devil in “Damn Yankees.” He continued performing in theatre productions while at Queens College of The City University of New York, where he majored in speech therapy. The college did not offer a theatre degree at the time; however he was able to incorporate theatre into his studies, using it as a tool when tutoring children with speech impediments. Earning his bachelor’s degree 1971, he went on to receive his Master of Fine Arts in theatre in 1972 from the University of Connecticut, and then to Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, where he earned his doctorate in history and theory of theatre in 1980.

While he continued to act in productions during his college days, in university and community theatre, Rodney chose to pursue teaching rather than acting as his career. He headed up the acting programs at Berea College in Ohio and Elmira College in New York, before taking a position as chair of the theatre department at Humboldt State University following completion of his dissertation.

In 1982, Rodney came to CSU Dominguez Hills to lead its theatre arts program. He served as chair until 1988 and again from 1992 to 2004. It was under his leadership in the 1980s that the program received its first accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Theatre.  During his 30 years at CSU Dominguez Hills, he directed numerous productions and worked to ensure students had opportunities beyond the university to hone their craft, such as performing at the American College Theatre Festival.  He is also credited with establishing the Dominguez Theatre Guild Scholarship program to provide financial assistance to theatre majors.

It was that commitment to students, as well as his genuine kindness, that he will be remembered for above all else.

In a post on the University’s Facebook page, many students left words of praise for his compassion towards his students. Mule Skinner, who took classes with him in the mid-1980s recalled a professor whose door was always open to his students and who was there with words of encouragement or simply to swap stories or listen to their problems.

“That is the legacy he left with his students of the early 1980s to the present,” Skinner said. “Maybe that’s why most of his students, like my husband [Robin D. Harrison (B.A., theatre, '88)] became teachers, trying to return the favor to a well-loved instructor who will be deeply missed by all who knew him in and outside of the classroom.”

His colleagues felt the same way. Speaking for the department, current chair Bill DeLuca said, “Peter was simply the most lovable guy in our neighborhood here at Theatre Arts. He was always supportive and never turned his back on anyone. We will miss his positive spirit and infectious laughter.”

Rodney is survived by his wife of 35 years, Barbara, their daughter, Brooke, and his extended family of brothers- and sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews. They requested that donations be made in his name to the Dominguez Theatre Guild Scholarship. Contact department administrative coordinator Ella Gomez at (310) 243-3588

 

Comments

  1. K Boykins says:

    Professor Rodney was a riot and an awesome instructor.Thank You Professor Rodney, you will be missed!

  2. C Bernardo says:

    I’m saddened by his passing. My deepest sympathy are with his family. Prof. Rodney is one of the few professors that I’ve actually enjoyed listening to. I took his Humanities class in the summer of ’09. I’ve learned so much from him. Thank you Prof. Rodney.

  3. Channi Michelle says:

    He will be truly missed! One of the top professors at CSUDH. He actually cared and through all the pain he was in he tried his best to continue on with his classes. I can definitely say he was a man who spoke his mind. Made it worth being in class.

  4. Oscar Ulloa says:

    I had Dr. Rodney for Speech class, and I really enjoyed having him as a professor. He taught me how to be more confident and straightforward without putting people to sleep about stuff they didn’t care about. What’s more, he taught me the kindness potential of the human heart. Thank you Professor.

  5. Liz Moran says:

    I never knew Mr. Rodney, but it aches my heart to hear that a beloved professor is gone. He is in my prayers and send loving thoughts to his family. It is clear he made an impact, and it is a true loss for all of us

  6. Shawneva Franklin says:

    Mr. Rodney was a awesome teacher. I have taken his classes 3 years straight (theatre 120, 160 & hum 200)…im going to miss his fun laugh, jokes, teaching style and linearacy
    ….I LOVE YOU MR. RODNEY AND YOU NEVER BE FORGOTTEN.
    I will never find a teacher like you….

  7. Jenni Steiner says:

    Professor Rodney was a great addition to CSUDH and his teaching style was great! He will be missed very much and as a student of his for a short while I wish his family the best of luck and he is in my prayers.

  8. Kat Davis says:

    He insisted I call him Peter every time I called him Dr. Rodney & he’d give me that look. He was instrumental in helping me to choose Theatre as my major, always encouraging, always in your corner. A great professor & mentor & actor. When choosing upper gen ed classes I asked him if it was ok to take Asian Pacific Theatrical Genres, since we had to take stuff out of our majors. He said, “See these three letters in front? As long as they don’t say THE it counts. Sneak in theatre any way you can!!”

    My deepest sympathies to his family & to all the staff.

  9. Andrew J. Leist says:

    I had one class with Prof. Rodney and it was thoroughly enjoyable. He knew his stuff, and seemed to really enjoy sharing history and ideas with his students. It was a pleasure to be in his classroom.

  10. Beverly Stelly says:

    Dr. Rodney was the best! He truly had a love for his craft and his students. He was more than just a professor. He was a friend. Not only was he my mentor in Speech and Theatre in the late 80s and early 90s but my daughter’s mentor also in the early 2000s. We will miss you “my friend”. Much love and prayers to his family.

  11. Victor Trevino says:

    Peter was an awesome human being and teacher as well as a gifted, talented artist. He was a consummate artist and human being. I am fortunate in having crossed paths with him many years ago. My deepest sympathies to his family and all his colleagues at Dominguez Hills.

  12. I studied with Peter in Humboldt in 1981(82?). He was such a good teacher and his students were love turned on by his teaching, that I first saw teaching as a career, while training with him. I had always thought I would become a professional actor but I never thought I could love teaching as much as I loved acting…until I trained with Peter. Now, 30 odd years later, I’ve gone on to become a professional acting coach in film and TV, I LOVE my work and I have Peter to thank. Rest in Peace my friend.

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