February 29, 2016
On Feb. 18, theatre professor Marilyn “Cookie” Hetzel got a much-deserved curtain call. She was awarded a Lifetime of Excellence in Teaching Award from the Kennedy Center and the American College Theatre Festival Region VII.
MSU Denver President Stephen M. Jordan presented the award in front of an audience of faculty from universities and colleges across the northwestern United States, among others.
“Dr. Hetzel has been the leading force in developing the Theatre Program at MSU Denver and through the combination of strong expectations and advocacy, she has positively impacted theatre programs throughout the region,” he said. “She has used this art form to educate the broader community around many issues, demonstrating the power of the theatre to affect social change.”
Hetzel began her career with MSU Denver in 1987 and was charged with developing the student theatre club into an academic program as well as creating a music theatre program. She poured her heart and soul into these tasks, according to Jordan.
In her nearly 30 years at the University, Hetzel has worked tirelessly to elevate the Theatre Program. She helped grow it to include a B.A. in Theatre, B.F.A. in Music Theatre, B.F.A. in Applied Theatre Technology and Design, and a minor in theatre. In 2012, she spearheaded a successful effort to become the first NAST-accredited theatre program in Colorado.
Beyond academics, Hetzel had a major impact on obtaining tri-institutional performing arts space on the Auraria Campus. She helped develop the King Center program plan and spent a great deal of time lobbying for more dedicated theatre space so that her programs could grow. She collaborated with many individuals and other institutions, and her efforts paid off in 2001, when the King Center for the Performing Arts opened.
Hetzel’s reach extended beyond campus as well. Among many notable achievements, she spent three summers in Guam during the ’90s working with a peace organization to develop plays about how to make healthy choices when faced with conflict. In 1995, she started a touring theatre company that created and performed “The Vortex: Conflict, Power, and Choice,” an anti-bullying play that toured Denver Metro Schools. And in 2009, she established an Educational Touring Company with Kaiser Permanente that continues today. Its touring productions deliver a positive message on a variety of health-related topics and provide MSU Denver students invaluable experience.
Despite being involved in so many endeavors – too many to recount here – Hetzel has managed to find the time and energy to direct over 50 productions at MSU Denver.
She is truly a legend, both on campus and in the community, and this award is a befitting recognition of her impressive contributions.
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