BRANDT, CAROLE: 1937 - 2014
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Quoting modern dance grande dame Martha Graham, Dean Carole Brandt finished each Meadows School of the Arts Diploma Ceremony with, "There is a vitality, a force, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any medium and be lost. The world will not have it." The first woman ever appointed to an academic deanship at SMU, Dr. Brandt embraced the action of faculty, students, staff, and friends of the university and the arts, often invoking Emile Zola, "To be an artist is to live out loud."
A leader throughout a 50-year career, she served her profession in myriad roles: Director of the School of Drama at Illinois Wesleyan, Chair of the Department of Theatre at the University of Florida, and Head of the Department of Theatre at The Pennsylvania State University where she was also Executive Producer and Artistic Director of Pennsylvania Centre Stage. Nationally, she served as Chair of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, President of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Dean of The College of Fellows of the American Theatre, President of the National Association of Schools of Theatre, and President of the National Theatre Conference. Throughout her career she directed approximately 200 professional and academic productions and was invited into membership by the Society of Directors and Choreographers. Among a number of award-winning productions, her Dancing at Lughnasa was performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
During Dr. Brandt's term as Dean, over $100 million was raised for the Meadows School and Museum. The MSA endowment was increased by another hundred million dollars. She oversaw the planning, fundraising, construction, and opening of a new $30 million Meadows Museum in 2001, and in 2006, was instrumental in the acquisition of a new $33 million Meadows Foundation grant, the largest in the history of SMU at the time. She helped SMU acquire a number of significant works of art including El Greco's painting, St. Francis Kneeling in Meditation, and she commissioned Santiago Calatrava's monumental moving sculpture Wave which serves as the signature piece at the entrance of the university. When she retired in 2006, the Meadows School Advisory Board and SMU designated a Brandt Garden in front of the Owen Arts Center where Dean Brandt had celebrated diploma ceremonies and beach parties with students, faculty, and staff for twelve years.
In 2002, the Spanish government awarded Dean Brandt the Ecomienda de la Orden de Isabel La Catolica, the highest distinction granted non-Spaniards who promote good relations between Spain and America, thus designating her Commander of the Order; in the same year, the Dallas Historical Society presented her with the Award for Excellence in Creative Arts. Throughout her long career, Dr. Brandt was the only academic in the country who earned four Kennedy Center Medallions for Excellence and an Exxon Gold Medallion for Contribution to Theatre in Higher Education. She was also named Theatre Educator of the Year in Florida and Pennsylvania.
A former student writes: "Dr. Brandt taught me all about theatre, but more importantly, she opened my eyes to the possibilities of life-the adventure of it all-and the joy one can experience living life." Another former student who grew up to become a Meadows staff member wrote on the occasion of Dr. Brandt's retirement, "Thank you for giving your heart, soul, mind, and body to SMU for so many years in such unique ways, that I will forever remember your legacy-'As the elegant, smart, sophisticated lady who fiercely fought for what was right; all the while maintaining her dignity, composure, and most of all, her love for others'." A colleague from another university wrote after Dean Brandt met with theatre faculty as a program consultant for several days, "We have been in a shambles for so long and you reminded us of our potential, our power, and our ability to make the dragons love us (as I was saying good-bye I said something about killing the dragons and walking away I heard 'or make them love you'). It imprinted itself on my heart with power-you are a great great teacher and this student thanks you."
Dr. Brandt was heard to say more than once that she "flunked" retirement, continuing to consult for college and university theatre programs across the country, serving as chair of numerous accreditation teams, and presenting panels or speeches at conferences. She had particular fun working on a memoir entitled, Braless in Retirement with chapters listed as Adventures that include hot cars, exuberant dogs, and pitched peas. In addition, she became a film and play script reader for projects in LA and NYC. Locally, she was active on the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts Board of Trustees, the Dallas Center for Architecture, AFI-Dallas, Charter 100, and Big Thought.
Carole Brandt was the first born daughter of Clifton Perry and Mary Helen Mitchell Brandt who have been deceased since the 1970's. She is survived by sister Linda Henderson of Normal, Illinois and was preceded in death by sister Rita Kuhne of Champaign, Illinois. She took great pleasure playing Auntie Mame to nieces Kristin Kuhne, Allison Kuhne Butcher, Ryan Henderson Bradstock; nephews Heath and Hutch Henderson; six grandnieces and nephews. Throughout her lifetime, she was a lover of people, animals, books, and the fine arts. She lived to learn and serve and play. In her book, she wrote: "I have wanted a life of Doing. As the leading character in The Play of Brandt, I have chosen millions of actions and non-actions in the billions of moments of my life."
I HAVE WANTED:
• To allow my inner child out to play;
•To win occasionally.
I HAVE KNOWN:
•Adventuring on water as sublime;
• Everything is beautiful at the ballet;
•Wisdom expects wit;
•Only I can reveal my truth;
• Michelle Obama is the most exciting First Lady of my lifetime;
• Good and bad, unfettered joy and sorrow, yin and yang.
I HAVE TAKEN:
• Pleasure in the Company of painters and writers and
ballerinas and clowns;
•My time once in a while;
•Not making do for granted;
•Umbrage with incivility;
•Bicycle rickshaws in New York.
I HAVE FEARED:
•The dumbing down of our culture;
•Any dentist's office;
• Political incompetence and impotence;
•Loss of independence;
•Loss of dignity.
I HAVE DONE:
•Windows and floors;
•What I can;
•Sometimes what I can't.
I HAVE THOUGHT:
• It's rarely a puddle-wonderful world;
•I hate Hate Speech;
• Being in love does mean having to say you're sorry;
• In general, men want to win, women want to resolve;
• Falling paint box colored leaves are God's gift to me;
• As are the Cirque du Soleil and butterflies;
• It's more often than not a puddle-wonderful world.
I HAVE LOVED:
• The idea but not the taste of cotton candy;
• Winona, Katie and Kathleen, Shirley and Sandy and Suzanne, Mildred and Mina and Myra, Dolores and Jeanne, Rosemary and Rosie, Bev and Barbara and Becky, Helen and Helene, Peg and Phyl and Petina, Andrea and Anne, Cindy and Carolyn and Carol, and, of course, Frankie;
• Spanish painters Sorolla and Zapata;
•Sea Turtles and Coi;
• Pandas and penguins, koalas and kangaroos, gazelles
I HAVE BEEN: •Tenacious• A phantom in someone's opera• Tempted;• Scared• Excited• At this moment, content•
Curious• Happy • Here.
At the request of Dr. Brandt, there will be no services. Rather, family and friends are asked to do something nice for someone else and fun for themselves.
Published in Gainesville Sun from Mar. 7 to Mar. 8, 2014