Porterfield Hall Theatre Space Dedicated to Benefactors

Lilli and Leslie Hawes

The studio theatre in Porterfield Hall is now the Dr. James W. and Lilli Hawes Studio Theatre. Pictured in front of the theatre's commemorative plaque are Lilli Hawes and her daughter, Leslie.

The Radford University Department of Theatre paid tribute to James Hawes and Ann Gardner Gray Saturday by dedicating space in Porterfield Hall to honor the two longtime champions of the arts.

In appreciation of contributions to the university by their families, the studio theatre in Porterfield Hall is now the Dr. James W. and Lilli Hawes Studio Theatre, and the costume studio is the Ann Gardner Gray Costume Studio.

The dedication ceremony was one of several events sponsored by the College of Visual & Performing Arts during Family Weekend 2011 and Fall Homecoming and Reunion. It was an opportunity for theatre alumni, family and friends to immortalize the honorees, said Carl Lefko, director of the School of Dance & Theatre. “They are with us to celebrate this special day,” he said. “All of us have fond memories in this space.”

Lefko described Hawes as “a legend among the students he taught.” As chair of the Radford University Department of Theatre from 1975 to 1994, Hawes was remembered by colleagues as a brilliant, dedicated professor of theatre history, a gifted actor, designer, director and an expert on 19th-century Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Hawes was also the founder of a visiting artists program that has hosted renowned professionals to design, teach and perform alongside RU students. 

George Gray

George Gray stands in the Ann Gardner Gray Costume Studio, named in memory of his wife.

Hawes’ daughter, Leslie ‘06, M.S. ‘11, thanked those in attendance for their support, saying her father would have been proud to see how many lives he touched.

“You were a part of his enthusiasm—all of you—his drive, his motivation, his creation,” said Hawes, who further applauded her mother’s contribution to the arts at Radford, praising her for “her steadfast, mature nature, her unwavering support, her dedication and devotion.”

Gardner Gray’s widower, George A. Gray, attended the ceremony, where he was praised by Lefko as a longtime benefactor of the theatre department. “Generosity of heart and spirit comes naturally to Dr. George A. Gray,” Lefko said. After his wife’s death, Gray donated several garments from her distinctive wardrobe to the theatre department’s costume inventory, followed by a donation to name the costume studio in her memory.

“She would love this,” Gray said after the ceremony. “I just feel happiness today.”

Lefko remembered Gardner Gray as “a distinguished lady, always beautifully coiffed and elegantly dressed.” Kathleen Harshberger, a director in the Office of University Advancement, said Gardner was a friend and “a lady of grace, style and elegance who loved the theatre.”

Oct 19, 2011
Keith Hagarty