The Rev. James J. Maher, Niagara University president, and C. Henrik Borgstrom, Ph.D., associate provost, present a citation to Dr. Sharon Onevelo Watkinson.

The outstanding contributions of Sharon Onevelo Watkinson, Ph.D., former chair of Niagara University’s Department of Theatre and Fine Arts and co-founder, with Brother Augustine Towey, of its bachelor of fine arts in theatre, were recognized on May 4, 2019, with the establishment of the Sharon Onevelo Watkinson Endowed Professor of Theatre and Vocal Performance.

Dr. Watkinson began her relationship with Niagara University as an undergraduate English major in 1962, graduating with a bachelor of arts four years later. After earning her master’s degree in speech and drama at the Catholic University of America, she returned to Monteagle Ridge in 1968 as a faculty member and associate director of theatre. She subsequently earned her Ph.D. in educational theatre at New York University, and was appointed professor of theatre studies in 1986, then chair of the Department of Theatre and Fine Arts in 1991, a position she held until she retired in May 2018.

During her tenure, Dr. Watkinson, in collaboration with Brother Augustine Towey, founded and built what ultimately became the bachelor of fine arts in theatre, combining a conservatory approach to actor-training and a full liberal arts curriculum. Today, the program offers three areas of concentration—performance, design and production, and theatre specializations—and its performances are staged in the Leary Theatre within the Elizabeth Ann Clune Center for Theatre on the Niagara University campus.

A recognized scholar, teacher, and leader among the university community, Dr. Watkinson was an inspiring and passionate teacher, who once wrote: “Every class of students, like every audience, is there for the first time, and deserves only the very best performance.”

Dr. Watkinson officially retired last May, after successfully overseeing the inaugural year of the first endowed professor of vocal performance, created through a generous bequest from alumnus George Wiegers, '58. It is fitting that her extraordinary career concludes with that endowed professorship being named for her in honor of her dedication to the department and the university she has loved for decades.  

“Niagara University has been a way of life for me,” she once said. “It’s all I’ve ever known. Because I love what I do, I have never worked a day in my life.”

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