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Jerry Allen's family will be hosting an open house to celebrate his life on Saturday, Jan. 21, from 1-3 p.m. in the Mary Welch Theatre, located in the College's Academic Center off Mulberry St. Dress is casual for this time of friendship and remembrance.
Lycoming College is mourning the loss of one of its veteran faculty members. Jerry Allen, associate professor of theatre, died unexpectedly Jan. 17.
"We will all miss a great wit, chef, father, grandfather, teacher, director, actor, and costume and stage designer," said Lycoming President Dr. James Douthat. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family as we fondly remember Jerry and his many contributions to the College."
Allen, who joined Lycoming's faculty in 1984, spent his entire career in theatre and worked in virtually every area of theatre production: from onstage acting and directing to backstage production. But costume and stage design was what he enjoyed most. He created set designs for 125 different productions and costumes for more than 225 productions. In 2004, the College exhibited a retrospective of 35 years of his costume and scene designs.
"Jerry has touched the lives and hearts of hundreds of students, faculty and staff at Lycoming," said Dr. N.J. Stanley, associate professor and chair of the theatre department. "He was an incredibly talented artist, a great storyteller, and he had a wonderful wry sense of humor. He was always quick to laugh. He was loved by many."
Allen also had a special interest in children's theatre. In 1994, he founded the Emerald City Players, comprised of Lycoming theatre students, which brings children's theatre to area schools.
Allen enjoyed gardening and cooking and was the author of four cookbooks. He earned both a B.F.A. and M.F.A from Utah State University.
Among Allen's survivors are son, Bryn, a 1999 Lycoming graduate, daughter, Ashleigh, and five grandchildren.
What students are saying about Professor Allen:
"Jerry Allen was a wonderful man to be around. He was so funny and would toss out good-hearted insults like no one's business. He thought we were all scared of him, and we were, until we actually met him. Jerry could try to make us believe he was a brute, but he really was a teddy bear. Hence his nickname, Jer-Bear. He could make you smile just by saying hello. I always felt comfortable enough to go talk to him whenever I needed to. He touched so many people's lives. He taught us to sew, and he taught us to stick up for ourselves. The theatre just suffered a huge loss. Those hallways and that stage will never be the same."
Molly Collier, Theatre major
"Jer was someone you always expected to be around and know everything. He was like a father figure to a lot of us, giving guidance and butt-kicking whenever necessary."
Gabriela Gorka, Theatre major
"One of the first things he would always say to me when I walked into his office was 'What did you do?' The last thing he would say would be, 'Get out of my office.' I didn't realize what these two statements meant, until one day he told me. The reason he said this was because you cannot learn in an office. You have to learn outside of the office and he was there for me when I needed help through some very difficult times. He was a mentor, a leader and a friend to me. He taught me that in life you make mistakes and you learn from them and live a better life."
Anthony L. Pilla, Music major
"One of Jerry's favorite movies was 'Auntie Mame,' in which the title character famously says: 'Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!' That was also Jerry's philosophy, and in the few years I knew and loved him, I never knew him to starve. He lived heartily, worked heartily, loved heartily and never minced words. He told it like it was, even if it hurt or upset you, because in the end, what he said ultimately helped you become a better actor, director or person. His honesty, sense of humor, and the passion and love for his work and co-workers are what I will definitely take with me when I graduate this May. I'll also take with me the love for classic films that he shared with me and my classmates in the first class I ever had with him. Without him, I'd never know who Cary Grant even was.
"It's hard to believe that just yesterday he was advising me on my senior project. But it isn't hard to believe that he was one of the most influential people I'll ever know, and to spend the rest of my semester in mourning would be a huge insult to him. So instead, I'll be happy to have had him for a teacher, and to always have him for a friend."
Jesse Shade, Theatre major