• Dianne Lynch

A Stephens man of grace, talent, loyalty and heart, a teacher extraordinaire: Rob Doyen retires

After 38 years in our classrooms and countless starring roles on our stages in Columbia and Okoboji, Professor Rob Doyen informed me this weekend of his decision to retire. On Saturday. As in, he retired on Saturday.

It was classic Rob: He'd been thinking about it for awhile, and he came to the conclusion that this was the right time. And that meant now. And so he won't be coming back to our classrooms in the fall for the first time since 1982, and he won't be walking around with a script in his back pocket as he does so often while preparing for a role.

But he'll be with us, nonetheless -- in our audiences, and next summer, at Okoboji: How could we allow him to end his faculty career without another season at his beloved summer home? His fans and followers in our Boji community have earned the right to give him the standing ovation and thanks he so richly deserves.

I'm sharing my message to the faculty, written within minutes of receiving his brief and simple email. It speaks to his role and his impact on our campus community. I know our current students, as well as thousands of our alumnae, will join me in celebrating and honoring Rob for his achievements, his contributions, and his abiding love for Stephens.

We'll be in touch in the coming months as we plan special ways to recognize him. In the meantime, join me in congratulating and thanking one of the true greats at Stephens College:

Rob Doyen informed me this weekend that he had made the decision to retire after ….I’m still trying to process that idea – that you won’t be with us in the coming months (or years), and I just haven’t yet figured out what that looks like, at all.  But I didn’t want to wait until it settles in – it could be days! – to tell you that your departure from our daily experience and community represents a loss beyond measure.  I know you’ve been considering retirement – and believe me, I understand why! – but the actual reality of not having you with us is honestly beyond my imagination.   

I do know this:  You have been an anchor and a leader for this little college, its students and its faculty.  You have spoken always from the heart, with integrity and an unfailing focus on what matters:  Our students.  You have taken the high road – and created one when we needed it – in every conversation I have ever had with you; you may have disagreed adamantly with me, but it was always because you wanted what you believed to be the best thing for Stephens -- never out of self-interest or political positioning.  And you have done so with respect and integrity.

You are the Stephens College we say we are: honest, committed, brilliantly talented, and deeply loyal to our mission and our values.  It’s trite to say that Stephens won’t be the same without you – but oh, it is so sadly true.  And that said, your legacy remains: Your career of outstanding and memorable performances on our stages – from Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, to Norman Thayer in On Golden Pond, to Oscar in The Odd Couple (I remember when you and Mark were rehearsing for the show at Boji, you told me that your first role as a student at Stephens in 1968 was as a poker player in the Odd Couple).  You have been a mentor and a role model of professionalism and preparation, the foundation of our apprenticeship model of theater education.

There are no goodbyes here, but I will say congratulations.  Our loss is your family’s gain, and I am happy that you will have more opportunity to be with them during these chaotic times.  We will of course plan for a campus-wide celebration of your life’s work here at Stephens when that becomes a possibility.  In the meantime, please know that we are forever grateful for all you have done for and been to all of us.

We will, indeed, plan that celebration when we are all back on campus in the fall.  After all, we can’t allow Rob to depart from our daily interactions without giving him the most heartfelt and raucous standing ovation of his career.   

We'll keep you posted.


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