Campus community mourns loss after beloved theater professor’s passing

Former adjunct lecturer of theater passed away on Thursday Feb. 1 (pictured above). Students and faculty appreciated his caring and considerate nature, as well as the liveliness he brought to the classroom experience. (Courtesy of Department of Theatre and Dance )

Former adjunct lecturer of theater in the department of theater and dance Richard Wesp died on Thursday Feb. 1 due to a pre-existing illness. Students and faculty have grieved the actor and educator’s passing. 

As a mainstay of theater in Western New York for over three decades, much of Wesp’s energy found an outlet in acting. He started acting in Buffalo in the 1970s before receiving a sizable role in “Richard II” in 1980, and then moving on to star in plays in comedic and dramatic roles, according to a Friday Feb. 2 article from the Buffalo News

At Geneseo, Wesp worked to translate his skill as an actor into a lively classroom persona as a popular adjunct professor. He taught sizable lectures as well as smaller-scale seminars. The Department of Theater and Dance conferred in an emailed statement to The Lamron following his passing sentiments that emphasize his contributions to his students. 

“He loved working with the students at Geneseo [and] he went above and beyond the requirements of an adjunct professor,” members of the department said. “He was very generous with the time he offered students who sought additional assistance, and students used those opportunities to gain more from him. The line of interested students at his office door would start before he could make it back from class.”  

Members of the department also knew Wesp as a considerate individual who sought to help others. The department probably should have nominated him for an excellence in part-time teaching award since he was very well-liked by students, according to associate professor of theater, Technical Director, Lighting and Sound Designer Johnnie Ferrell. 

Ferrell similarly recalled one episode during Wesp’s last semester before retiring due to illness that demonstrated his magnanimous tendencies. 

“[Wesp] was incredibly considerate,” Ferrell said. “Toward the end of his time here, he didn’t want to even let me know that he was getting sick because he thought it might be an inconvenience, which is crazy.” 

As a professor, his caring nature was clear to theater and communication double major sophomore Kaitlin Joyce. 

“[Wesp] cared about everyone in all [of] his classes,” Joyce said. “He was clearly the same person whatever the number of students. He cared as much about his class of 16 as he did his class of more than 200.” 

Joyce remembers Wesp as someone able to not only teach a lesson, but also deeply impact on students personally.

“I’m kind of an eccentric person on the inside, but when I was new to the theater department, I kind of stayed in the back a little bit, but he pulled out [my] creativity and [I] couldn’t not be [myself] in his classes,” Joyce said. “He always told elaborate stories and would just be weird and uninhibited, feeling free in Brodie to goof off or be a character … He brought out that confidence in my acting too.” 

Beyond the care and deliberation he put into his courses, students remember the lively spirit Wesp brought to his lectures. 

“His classes were always very fun and entertaining,” childhood special education major and theater concentration senior Lisa Cento said. “He oftentimes would act out scenes—he would end up standing on tables a lot. It was definitely an interactive class because he was always asking questions and he spoke with such passion about every single play we read, every single scene we talked about. As a theater student, it’s great to see that your professor is just as involved as you want to be one day.”

The Department of Theater and Dance plans to remember each facet Wesp brought to the Geneseo community. 

“For students new to the department, he was a warm and welcome introduction to the field,” they said in a statement. “He was supportive of the theater and dance productions, making a point to travel from Buffalo to attend performances. He was an eloquent advocate for his profession and a very kind man. We miss him.”