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An honorary society of outstanding theatre educators and professional theatre practitioners.

Formed in 1965 as a project proposed by members of the American Theatre Association.






The College of Fellows of the American Theatre originated in 1965 within the American Educational Theatre Association. From its beginnings, investiture in the College was one of the highest honors bestowed on educators and professionals of the American theatre.

The primary purpose of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre is to promote and encourage the highest standards of research, writing, and creativity in educational and professional theatre through honoring distinguished service and notable accomplishment by individuals of recognized national stature. The membership includes actors, critics, designers, directors, playwrights, producers, program administrators, educators and scholars associated with the commercial and educational wings of the American theatre. The Fellows Gazette is the official publication of the College and reports to the membership on current and future activities.

Today, the College is an autonomous, nonprofit organization of nearly 150 members that holds its annual meeting and investiture of new members each April under the auspices of the Education Department of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D. C. Among the events of the yearly meeting is the annual Roger L. Stevens Address, named for the visionary producer who served as founding chairman of the Kennedy Center and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Digital Timeline

Digital Timeline


William Ralph McGraw was born on December 15, 1930, in Martins Ferry, Ohio. He was the son of William Ralph and Lois Caroline (Carmichael) McGraw.

William McGraw received his Bachelor's degree from Wooster College in Ohio in 1952. He pursued a Master of Arts from Ohio State University in 1953. Finally, he received his Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Minnesota in 1958.

William had an illustrious career in theater. He served as Associate Professor and became Chair of the Theatre Department at West Virginia University, in Morgantown, West Virginia from 1972-1975. He then served as Dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts at Youngstown (Ohio) State University from 1975-1985. He was professor from 1985-1988 and then became Dean of  Bowling Green State University in Huron, Ohio from 1985-1988 in their Theatre Department from 1988-1991.

William McGraw was the President of the American Theatre Association in 1974. He was Dean of the College Fellows of The American Theatre from 1984-1990. He is now one of our Dean Emeriti.

William McGraw

F. Loren Winship

To no one was that conviction more crucial to the development of theatre education than it was to Loren Winship, professor of drama at the University of Texas and Chair of the Project.  F. Loren Winship envisioned the creation of a national academy serving to recognize the most significant and influential individuals in our field, and by doing so, to enhance the stature of theatre as a profession within the realm of the arts and as a major cultural force in the country.

Winship had attained impressive authority and influence within the Texas educational system. He had designed and was administering a training regimen for teachers and directors of theatre at the secondary school level, and he championed benefits of theatre for children in the schools and communities of the state. 

As the head of the Academic Production Standards Project, he proposed in the mid-1950s that AETA endorse an analogous policy as "the AETA Mininum Criteria" for college theatre programs. The proposal was adopted in 1959. Efforts to implement those criteria led eventually to the formation of the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST).

Having observed how colleagues in the several intellectual disciplines subscribed to professional societies and assocations, and that the most distinguished of these colleagues gained notable recognition and prestige which benefitted their programs and institutions, Winship hit upon the notion of proposing a similar honorary process within the AETA. The proposal suggested that the AETA make a new designation - 'Fellow of the American Educational Theatre Association' - and authorize an Academy of Fellows to which only a selected few members would belong.


Roger L. Stevens (Founding Chairman, National Council on the Arts Founding Chairman, The Kennedy Center and born March 12, 1910, Detroit, Michigan died February 2, 1998) For almost half of the twentieth century, Roger Lacey Stevens was a dominant force as a theatrical producer, arts administrator, and real estate entrepreneur. A highly successful real estate broker who once owned the Empire State Building, Stevens backed his first Broadway show in 1949. He quickly established himself as a significant power in the theater, both in the United States and in Britain. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Roger Stevens' many contributions to the field of performing arts management was the influence he brought to bear on people's imaginations.

He was a pioneer in obtaining government support of the arts and for artists, a theatrical producer of international importance, and the guiding force behind the establishment of a National Cultural Center. During the 1950s and 1960s, he become a major theatrical producer, presenting more than 100 plays and musicals, including West Side Story, Bus Stop, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Man for All Seasons, and Tea and Sympathy. In 1961, Roger Stevens was asked by then President Kennedy to establish the National Cultural Center, which a decade later would be named in honor of the slain 35th President The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

As Chairman of the Kennedy Center's Board of Trustees from 1961 to 1988, Stevens not only led the Kennedy Center's fundraising efforts, but also guided its programming, which included the commissioning of many new artistic works. Stevens served as President Lyndon B. Johnson's Special Assistant on the Arts from 1964 to 1968, shepherding legislation that established the Nation's first National Council on the Arts, later renamed the National Endowment for the Arts, which he chaired from 1965 to 1969. "The Stevens Angle," he said in a 1957 interview, "is this: whatever I get involved in happens." The unstoppable visionary died February 2, 1998.

 - The Kennedy Center

Roger L. Stevens

Roger L. Stevens Address

Stevens Addresses

This address is presented annually by an outstanding member of the Fellows in honor of the founding chairman of both the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

It seemed fitting to honor the founding chairman of the Kennedy Center by naming this address after him. Fellow Ralph Allen presented the 1st Annual Roger L. Stevens Address, The Rhythm, Style and Meaning of Jokes.

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