Concordia University

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Honorary degree citation - Norma Springford*

By: Gerry Gross, June 1984

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Norma Springford, an eminent contributor to the development of Canadian theatre. For over forty years as teacher, artist and administrator she has tirelessly encouraged the improvement of performance practices of regional Community theatres and the development of an indigenous professional theatre which meets international standards. In fact, the word "professional" has always had a special meaning for Mrs. Springford; above all, it implies respect for one's art, selflessness, and grace under pressure.

When Professor Springford graduated from the University of New Brunswick, there was no Canadian professional theatre. For half a century, touring companies from the U.S. and England had followed the growth of the railways to bring theatre across Canada. Norma Springford came to understand that while these troupes satisfied the demand for entertainment, they undermined the possibility of an art which would reflect our experience. Under the auspices of the Dominion Drama Festival and other regional organizations, she travelled across every province and Alaska with a few other pioneers to help raise the standards of community theatres. Many years later her contribution to regional festivals was specifically recognized when in 1978 the Canadian Conference of the Arts awarded her the Diplome d'Honneur. For the same reasons, her peers in the professional theatre have made her an honorary life member of Actor's Equity; similarly, scholars of the Association for Canadian Theatre History made her a member for life.

Professor Springfords service to the theatre in our province has long been recognized: in 1950 she won the Martha Allen Trophy at the Dominion Drama Festival in Montreal, the first of several awards for her work here. She served in the Montreal Repertory Theatre, she directed the McGill Players Club for nearly a decade, and she owned and operated a professional summer theatre on Mount Royal called the Mountain Playhouse. It was a delightful institution near Beaver Lake and she operated it successfully for nine summers giving impetus to the careers of such contemporary luninaries as Christopher Plummer and Norman Jewison. She began teaching theatre at Sir George Williams University in 1958 and has, since then, been a leading force in development of the Department of Theatre at Concordia. It was, therefore, most appropriate that she was made the first recipient of the Eleanor Stuart Award for her distinguished contribution to the arts in Quebec.

It is especially fitting that Concordia University should honour a teacher and an artist with a splendid vision of a theatre for our country, a professional who has worked so effectively and so long for its realizations.

Mr Chancellor, it is a privilege to present to you, on behalf of the Senate and by the authority of the Board of Governors, Norma Springford, that you may confer on her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

* deceased

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