President's Note on Passing of Rodney Gilbert, 11/10/17.


President’s Note on Passing of Rodney Gilbert, 11/10/17

It is with great sadness that I share that Rodney Gilbert, recently promoted to Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance, passed away on Wednesday, November 8, 2017.  We share our deepest sympathies with Rodney’s family and friends and mourn this tremendous loss both at Drew and throughout the broader community.

Rodney was much-beloved on campus. He began teaching Speech and Intro to Acting and Directing at Drew in the late 1990’s and just this fall joined the faculty full-time bringing with him an over thirty year career as a professional actor and director.  In his time here at Drew, Rodney brought diversity to the forefront of our production program, directing Raisin in the SunGospel at Colonus, and King Hedley III.  Rodney was passionate about building diversity within the student body and meaningfully connecting Drew with area high schools of color, specifically targeting high schools in urban areas.

Rodney’s reach, as many of you know, extended far past The Forest. He served the arts community through acting instruction for various institutions and organizations as one of the leading teaching artists in the tri-state area. Rodney was the founder and CEO of Yendor Productions, a Newark-based firm that consults, develops, and produces arts education programming and events. Yendor Productions was founded in 2003 to meet the challenges for the under-served artists and communities. Additionally, Rodney oversaw the theatre program called Advantage Arts for Newark Public Schools, Extended Day and served as the lead teacher and liaison to its Drew University Theatre partnership for which he co-created the curriculum. He was an Arts Educator for the Kennedy Centers’ Wolftrap program here in NJ, as well as the Director of the Writers program for Playwrights Theater.

Rodney was member of the Actors Equity Association, a Leadership Newark Fellow, and an Audelco Award Nominee. He was a graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where he earned a BFA, and was recently presented with an Award in Civic Engagement by Drew University.

The Theatre and Dance faculty have been speaking with Rodney’s family and friends and I will be speaking with his daughter as soon as she is able. They have been able to share finalized details and wishes with us today so we are now able to share with our Drew community.  Funeral services for Rodney will be held next Friday, November 17th at NJPAC  in Newark with a viewing at 10AM and service at noon. A repast will follow at 15 Washington St, Newark, NJ. We will also be scheduling a memorial service on campus during the spring semester and will share those details as well.

Also, for those of you who have asked where you might be able to make a donation in Rodney’s memory, we understand that family and friends wish for donations be sent to the Advantage Arts program at Drew University. Gifts may be mailed to University Advancement at Drew or can also be made online at with notation that the gift is in Rodney’s memory.

We will share additional information about our on-campus memorial as it becomes available and encourage anyone who would like to talk to reach out to our counseling center as the team is available to provide support services during this difficult time. We keep Rodney, his family and friends, and all of those whose lives he touched in our thoughts and prayers.

MaryAnn Baenninger