Melba Day (Sparks) Henning was a leader among leaders for educational theatre. A teacher in the Portland, Oregon school system for thirty years, she established Thespian Troupe 124 at Jefferson High School in 1948 and Troupe 1782 at Madison High School in 1957. She served as Oregon’s state Thespian director for eleven years, beginning in 1957, and hosted the 1966 national conference—the first national Thespian conference held outside of Indiana.
Ms. Henning was elected to the Board of Directors in 1968, served as assistant international director from 1968 to 1970 and as international director (board president) from 1970 to 1972. During her term as international director, she spent more time at ITS’s headquarters than at her own school. She developed the first written policies for volunteer leaders, designed the play marathon system that was used at the Thespian Festival for many years, and designed a successful campaign to raise funds to purchase a new EdTA headquarters building. She served on numerous other policy-forming committees and was known among her colleagues for chairing marathon-length committee work sessions.
Doug Finney, a student and protégé of Ms. Henning who became EdTA’s assistant executive director, said of his mentor: “Melba Day is a little Audrey Hepburn, a lot Loretta Young. She was an inspirational teacher who made sure her students set off on the right path in life.”