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Robert W. Colby

of Newton, MA, 70, husband of Leslie and father of Allison and Jonathan, passed away on April 5, 2021 due to complications from pancreatic cancer.

Robert was born to William and Carolyn (Cox) Colby. He graduated from Fairview High School in Fairview Park, Ohio as class valedictorian, and the University of Michigan. Robert went on to receive a Masters in Arts for Drama Theatre for the Young from Eastern Michigan University and an Ed.D in Human Development from Harvard University.

Robert began his career in higher education as an instructor in theatre at Emerson College in 1977, and  rose through the faculty ranks, becoming  an assistant professor in 1982, earning tenure in 1988, and being promoted to full professor in 2014. He taught both graduate and undergraduate courses in theatre education, theatre for young audiences, and directing. Colby became the faculty assembly head in 2000, serving until 2002 and then again from 2015 to 2017. In 2019, he became Chair of the Department of Performing Arts, serving in that role until his death. As a passionate advocate for his fellow colleagues, he also served as president of the faculty union and was the recipient of four faculty service awards.

He was published in Children’s Theatre Review, Youth Theatre Journal, 2D: Drama/Dance, and Key Concepts in Theatre/Drama Education. He served in an editorial capacity on Youth Theatre Journal, New England Theatre Journal, Children’s Theatre Review, and Applied Theatre Research. He served on various Boards, including American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE), Children’s Theatre Foundation and Children’s Theatre Association of America.

He was twice honored for his contributions to the field of Theatre Education by the AATE with the Lin Wright Special Recognition Award (2003), and in 2020 with the Campton Bell Lifetime Achievement Award.

As a theatre director, he directed the regional or national premiere of more than 30 plays written for Young Audiences.

Robert’s contributions to the world of theatre education extend across the United States and the world through the work of his students who admired and loved him, often describing him as the best teacher they ever had. His career legacy will be long and far-reaching.

Robert was a fierce advocate for social justice, equity, and equal opportunity.

In his private life, Robert was a loving husband, father, and grandfather. Playing with his young grandchildren and watching them grow was one of the great joys of his life.

He was generous, kind, thoughtful, and funny. He will be sorely missed.

He is survived by his wife Leslie, his two children, Allison and Jonathan, his three grandchildren, Louisa, Calvin, and Silvia, his mother Carolyn, his siblings Bruce and Nancy, and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.

Due to the pandemic, the services will be private. In lieu of flowers, remembrances in his memory may be made to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, 1500 Rosecrans Ave., Ste. 200, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 or to ACLU Foundation of MA, 211 Congress St., Boston, MA 02110.




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