Although she retired in 2020, Marilyn duBrisk, Tusculum University’s artist-in-residence, director of arts outreach and chair of fine arts for almost 30 years has built a legacy that will undoubtedly continue.

In recognition of her longtime service to the university, during which she brought roughly 70 productions featuring local talent to the stage, the university dedicated the largest theater on campus as the Marilyn duBrisk Theatre on Wednesday. The theater is located on the main floor of the Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Center.

“When I came to Tusculum, one of the first people I had the pleasure to meet was Marilyn, and it quickly became evident to me how passionate she was that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy the arts,” said Dr. Scott Hummel, the university’s president. “Tusculum was fortunate to have Marilyn as the driving force for our arts program, and we will reap the benefits of her hard work for generations. It is highly appropriate for us to name this theater after Marilyn as a way to express our gratitude for her commitment to our arts program.”

Originally from Scotland, duBrisk also lived in Central East Africa before attending college in London and later taking a teaching job in Germany, where she met her husband Wess. She moved around with him while he continued to serve in the U.S. Air Force until the duBrisks came to Greene County in 1984 when Wess became director of mass communications at Tusculum. She became artist-in-residence for Greeneville City Schools and stayed there until 1991, when she accepted the same position at Tusculum, a press release from the university said.

During the ceremony Hummel presented duBrisk with a plaque, although he said the real plaque was delayed due to issues related to the pandemic, and Assistant Professor of Art & Design Bill Bledsoe presented a painting that depicts duBrisk standing on the stage in the theater now named for her as William Shakespeare listens from the audience — a reference to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of duBrisk’s favorite plays.

Students involved in Great Literature Alive, Well and Playing in Greeneville, Tennessee (GLAWPIGT), a group now in its 36th year that duBrisk founded to bring students in grades 3-12 from across the county together to study theater and literature, and the cast of Theatre-at-Tusculum’s production of “Mamma Mia!” also performed during the ceremony, and a “Thank You, Marilyn” video, comprised of a compilation of short clips from duBrisk’s many friends, former students and fans put together by Nathan Colmer was presented.

DuBrisk said much of the ceremony came as a surprise.

“I just knew they were going to dedicate the theater, and I knew some people would be here, but I didn’t know they were doing all of this,” duBrisk said after the ceremony. “It’s an overwhelming honor. I thought they did a great job, and this just makes me feel really proud and outstandingly lucky.”

“It is truly humbling to have actually impacted peoples’ lives, but theater does that,” duBrisk added. “People come because they want to, whether they are there as a performer or in the audience.”

“The day Marilyn and Wess arrived in Greene County was a transformative event for theater in the region,” said Wayne Thomas, dean of the College of Civic and Liberal Arts. “Her reach became even greater when she came to Tusculum and set a standard for excellence we will be pleased to uphold as a tribute to Marilyn. Naming the theater after Marilyn is the perfect way to thank her for leading a program that flourished, presented opportunities for so many people to display their creativity and enhanced the region’s quality of life.”

“The impact she has had on so many lives will outlast us all, and I am glad I had the privilege to work with her,” said senior GLAWPIGT member Jackson Beddingfield, a junior at Greeneville High School.

“We have so much going on here that she started or inspired, and she was worried about whether it would continue, but it definitely will,” said Tusculum’s Center for the Arts Director Jennifer Hollowell, who said she is working to broaden duBrisk’s vision in her role.

Acting Arts Outreach Director Brian Ricker called Wednesday’s ceremony “a very special tribute to a very special woman.”

“She leaves a legacy of heart for theater and for the community,” said Lizzie Watts, former superintendent of Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, now superintendent of New River Gorge in West Virginia. Watts said she became close friends with the duBrisks in the years she spent at the historic site, and she made the trip to Greeneville Wednesday just to see her friend be recognized by Tusculum.

“Thousands of kids understand and appreciate theater, music, dance and literature, and that is a very special gift,” Watts said. “To have a college with such a developed arts program is really quite unique, too.”

Dr. David Hendricksen, who, like duBrisk, had a long career with Tusculum, agreed.

“Large institutions across the country have expansive arts outreach programs. That is common, but what is not common is for a place this size to have a program so well developed, and that is because of Marilyn,” Hendricksen said. “She always tried to break down barriers. That was always important to her.”

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