Sterling Heights, Michigan

Jonathan Gillespie’s talent for rescuing ailing theatre programs was apparent early in his career. As an undergraduate at Michigan State, he was assigned to student teach at Pontiac Northern High School, in a district that had survived a contentious desegregation. Mr. Gillespie led his students through a challenging production that brought students together after they confronted their own prejudices.

After graduation, Mr. Gillespie assumed the artistic director position at the Dillard School of Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This position, too, was a challenge: racial strife and political infighting plagued the school, and staff members had resigned in protest. Over a nine-year period, Mr. Gillespie rebuilt and stabilized the program.

A few years later Mr. Gillespie was hired by the Warren Consolidated School of Performing Arts in Sterling Heights, Michigan, to save their threatened theatre arts program. He jumped in with curriculum changes that bore quick results, one of which was a powerful staging of The Diary of Anne Frank. Under his guidance, Warren Consolidated has doubled in size, and its district has invested over $7 million in a state-of-the-art performance venue and teaching facility. He also reactivated the school’s Thespian troupe.

Mr. Gillespie was also active at the chapter level while in Florida, serving as the District VII chair. Upon returning to Michigan, he was dismayed by the Michigan chapter’s limited participation and lack of organization. As a Michigan chapter board member, he brought cohesiveness to the chapter organization and its festival. Later as Michigan chapter director, he restructured the chapter leadership and expanded the festival.