Dr. Sharon Watkinson, chair of Niagara University’s department of theater and fine arts, announced that theater studies senior Jessica Bill of Arkport, N.Y., is the second recipient of the Julie Burdick Memorial Scholarship, named after alumna Julie Burdick, ’03.
Burdick passed away unexpectedly on Jan. 27, 2007, and her parents, Dr. James Burdick and Mrs. Sharon Burdick of East Amherst, N.Y., established the scholarship as a result of thousands of dollars of contributions made to Niagara University Theatre in honor of their daughter. The Burdick family has requested that one sophomore, junior or senior who is an outstanding theater performance major be chosen by the administrators and faculty of the theater program to receive the scholarship, which will last for the duration of the student’s undergraduate years at Niagara University. Once the student has graduated from NU, new recipients for the scholarship will be selected and announced.
Any student selected for this honor must not only excel on stage and in the classroom, but also they must model a Vincentian-like interest in caring for and helping others.
“We are delighted to select Jessica Bill as our second recipient of the Julie Burdick Memorial Scholarship,” noted Dr. Watkinson. “When we thought about how extraordinary Julie Burdick was as a ‘triple threat’ performer, as a student who loved to learn, and as an extraordinarily generous and caring human being, we thought of Jessica Bill. Very simply, Jessica excels not only in theater but also in all of her academic studies. And, like Julie, Jessica is humble, genuine, sincere- hallmarks of an authentic human being.”
Bill is a theater performance major at Niagara University and a member of the NU Players board. Roles at N.U. have included “Romeo and Juliet” (Juliet), “Night Train to Foggy Bottom” (the sculpture), “Top Girls” (Lady Nijo), and performances in the 2007 and 2008 24-Hour Projects. This summer, she will be in the cast of Shakespeare in the Park’s “The Tempest” in Buffalo. In the past, she has performed at Walt Disney World Theme Park.
Burdick played numerous leading and supporting roles while a theater performance student at Niagara University from 1999-2003. She also performed at Artpark and Buffalo’s MusicalFare Theatre in several productions. Following graduation, she worked continually in the theater around the United States. She was cast in several national theatrical productions, playing the role of “Iris Kelly” in the North American tour of “Fame, the Musical” and “Laurey” in Networks Presentations, LLC’s revival of “OKLAHOMA!” She also served as the off-stage cover for the four principal roles of the sisters in the national equity tour of “Little Women,” and completed a production of “Cabaret” in Washington, D.C.
Brother Augustine Towey, director emeritus of Niagara University Theatre, wrote and delivered the homily for Burdick’s Mass of the Resurrection, which was held at Niagara University’s Alumni Chapel. He said, “Julie never had ‘attitude.’ She was not what we call in the business a ‘diva.’ Her ambitions were not egotistical. All she wanted to do was work. And of course being Julie she wanted to sing, she wanted to dance, she wanted to laugh and to love… As one of her classmates said to me, she was the best of us.”