Converse Theatre recently performed The Thanksgiving Play, and there is a strong sense of gratitude among the entire cast and crew. They are in their second show of this year’s performances and are finally back on the stage doing what they love most after the pandemic. This space held in the Hazel B. Abbott Theatre in Wilson, has been home to many thought-provoking productions, skilled craftsmanship from the crew and countless applause and admiration for the work that the theatre faculty, staff and students pour into each show.
This feeling of gratitude is especially felt by students knowing that they have a space that empowers them to be confident actors who work collaboratively both on stage and in the classroom. This deep sense of appreciation goes back to those who laid the groundwork to create a thriving Theatre and Dance Department.
Hayward believed in theatre, he believed in Converse, he believed in our students, and he unwaveringly believed in his vision for the program.
Many alumni and faculty attribute this growth to the very beloved theatre professor, W. Hayward Ellis. From his first years at Converse to his last, he was proud to have continued a tradition of stretching boundaries, of redefining limits, and of never, “playing it safe” in his productions. Hayward believed in theatre, he believed in Converse, he believed in our students, and he unwaveringly believed in his vision for the program. Theatre Converse achieves what it does today as a direct result of the foundational contributions that he made. While his absence is still felt by many, his legacy has continued on through the W. Hayward Ellis Memorial Theatre
Originally established in 1993 in his memory by his wife Carol Ellis Raff ’76, this scholarship was created to recognize excellence in the theatre arts and to provide scholarship assistance to students who are active in the Theatre program. Since its inception, it has been awarded to 47 accomplished student actors, helping to provide a unique learning experience, much like Hayward did for all of his students.
Knowing Hayward’s impact and his desire to leave a legacy of excellence in the theatre, Carol
recently proposed a $10,000 matching gift to all donations made, to help reinvigorate this
scholarship. This challenge was met by previous scholarship recipients and theatre alumni,
along with precious memories and sentiments of Hayward. Recently she met with President Boone Hopkins to deliver on her proposal and presented him with the full $10,000 matching gift with much joy and delight.
Carol’s generosity and desire in carrying out Hayward’s legacy will be impactful for many
Converse theatre students for generations to come.