Barbara Korner, dean of the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture, is the co-recipient of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) 2016 Ellen Stewart Award for Career Achievement in Academic Theatre, with Mark Heckler, president of Valparaiso University. They were honored for their collaboration on the creation and administration of the ATHE Leadership Institute®, in which more than 400 faculty from across the country have participated over the past 16 years.
“From the beginning, [Bobbi Korner and Mark Heckler] held a strong belief in the power of mentorship, which served as a framework for the development of the Leadership Institute,” said Kristin Sosnowsky, executive associate dean of the College of Music and Dramatic Arts, Louisiana State University, in her nomination letter. “ATHE and all of theatre in higher education owe much to Bobbi Korner and Mark Heckler, two dedicated and inspirational leaders in our field.”
ATHE’s Career Achievement Awards (in academic theatre and professional theatre) are the highest honors bestowed by the organization. They recognize longtime careers of distinguished service as demonstrated by innovation, mentoring, advocacy, and superlative contributions to the field.
Korner and Heckler received the award on August 11 in Chicago, during ATHE’s annual conference. After 16 years at the helm of the Leadership Institute, they are stepping down as directors, but will continue to serve in an advisory capacity.
Nomination letters from administrators and faculty members in the arts in institutions across the country echoed Sosnowsky’s sentiments, praising Korner and Heckler’s visionary leadership and passion for their work.
“They are both remarkable people, wonderful organizers and planners, passionate about what they do, and even more passionate about transferring their vast knowledge to others. They work hard and long, leading by example, asking nothing of others that they would not do themselves,” wrote Valerie Morris, dean of the School of the Arts, College of Charleston. “Bobbi and Mark are known throughout the country for their leadership skills and their knowledge. They have set the framework for leadership institutes throughout the country.”
According to Korner, the ATHE Leadership Institute® has been a “labor of love.” “The Institute rests on three important principles: 1) The arts instill important life skills, and need to be part of every student’s experience in college. We need advocates who have the courage and commitment to take on administrative roles in higher education; 2) In our shared governance tradition, all faculty members ‘lead in place’ and it helps them to understand the challenges in the broader context of higher education; 3) We all need mentors to serve as sounding boards and balance our personal and professional lives. Working with and learning from Mark Heckler and all the mentors in ATHE has improved my own leadership.”
Korner has been dean of the College of Arts and Architecture since 2007. She previously spent seven years as associate dean for academic and student affairs in the College of Fine Arts at the University of Florida. Her other academic administrative experience includes serving as dean of fine and performing arts at Seattle Pacific University and special assistant to the chancellor at the University of Missouri at Columbia.
Korner, who holds a certificate from the Institute for Management and Leadership at Harvard University, presents communication and leadership workshops to a wide range of organizations and institutions. She has served on several regional and national arts and cultural boards, including two terms as vice president of ATHE; member of the board of directors for the International Council of Fine Arts Deans; and chair of the executive committee of Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru), of which Penn State is a founding partner.
Korner is a Distinguished Alumna of the College of Fine Arts at Ohio University, where she received her Ph.D. in interdisciplinary fine arts. She has performed dozens of stage roles in plays and musicals, as well as directed many university theatrical productions. Her women’s history performances have been funded by humanities councils in both Missouri and the state of Washington. With Carla Waal, she is the co-editor of Hardship and Hope: Missouri Women Writing About Their Lives. She is also the writer/performer of Responding to the Call: African-American Women Preachers.