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Glenn Close '74 and David Shaw receive Cheek Medal, engage W&M community


Some might describe Glenn Close’s acceptance of William & Mary’s Cheek Medal as a full circle completed.

For it was at the Lake Matoaka Amphitheatre where Close performed in 1972 The Common Glory, a drama depicting Revolutionary-era Williamsburg.  She returned to the very same outdoor stage – venue – on Saturday night where she and her husband, David Shaw, received William & Mary’s 2013 Cheek Medal Award for their contributions to the arts. The ceremony was part of a series of weekend events, which also included interactions with students, faculty, staff and alumni.

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Established in 1986 to honor Leslie Cheek, the medal is a national arts award given by William & Mary to those who have contributed significantly to the field of museum, performing or visual arts. It is presented by William & Mary’s Muscarelle Museum of Art.

“Thank you so much for this great honor,” said Close.  “We are very honored to receive it in the presence of two other distinguished people as well, including David Crank and William Ivy Long, who have gotten it.” 

“Despite my lack of training in the performing arts, I love our collaborative work on the most important theatrical production of all time – the art of life,” Shaw said, turning to Close.  “The art of living a fun and purposeful life, enriching the lives of others and having our lives enriched by events such as this.” 

Approximately 150 guests attended the ceremony.  The evening festivities on the shores of Lake Matoaka included performances by the Botetourt Singers, who sang three numbers from The Common Glory and concluded the evening with the Alma Mater.  Before dinner, William & Mary Jazz Combo members Raquel Tripp ’14, Matt Abel ’16, Waverly Langston ’15 and faculty member Harris Simon entertained the crowd with arrangements from both modern and classic composers.

President Taylor Reveley and Aaron De Groft, director of the Muscarelle of Art, presented the couple the medal, which was commissioned, designed and struck in Italy by well-known medalist Mario Pachioli.

“Both individually and together, Glenn and David have been serious, significant contributors to the creative arts,” said Reveley.  “Indeed, for things artistic and entrepreneurial, they are the classic power couple.  Leslie Cheek, had he not gone the way of all flesh some years ago, would be so very pleased that we celebrate both Glenn and David tonight.”

Before dinner, De Groft welcomed guests and recognized former Cheek Medal award recipients and members of the Alumni Arts & Entertainment Council. 

“We really have Jimmy Finn ’00 to thank for all of this,” explained De Groft.  “It was Jimmy’s idea that he brought to us to possibly do an exhibition of Glenn Close’s costumes on campus.” 

The atmosphere felt more like a party in the home of a dear friend, as Close and Shaw walked among tables to greet guests.  The awardees were the last individuals to depart from the amphitheatre before heading to the Muscarelle for an encore review of the costume exhibition, which opened to the public on Sunday. 

Student/Faculty Collaboration

As part of their visit to campus for the Cheek Medal award ceremony, Close and Shaw met with students and faculty from Arts & Sciences and the Business School to discuss their professional and volunteer work. 

Friday morning, Close hosted a master class for junior and senior theater majors in Phi Beta Kappa Hall.  Among the six students who performed a monologue for Close was Rebecca Turner ’14, a double major in theater and religious studies. 

“It was a good opportunity to get feedback from someone so well-known and acclaimed in her field and who has so much perspective and experience,” said Turner.  “Close gave us very honest critiques...We would perform our monologue, and she would be like, ‘That’s great, but don’t perform. Just do it. Just think about it, and feel it and be it,’” said Turner.

Close also told the students about her time at W&M and some of her first post-graduate auditions in New York. Turner, who intends on pursuing a career in theatre, described the experience as “hugely inspirational.”

“We’re very proud to have her as an alum and very proud to have her come back and especially have her be willing to work with us and give back,” said Turner. “That’s very inspiring, and we’re very grateful for that.”

Shaw had his own full day at William & Mary on Friday. He is an entrepreneur with a special affinity for technology, so it was appropriate that he spent much of his day meeting with members of the university’s business and scientific communities.

Following a lunch with faculty working on collaborative projects, Shaw met in Miller Hall with undergraduate and MBA students of the Mason School of Business, including members of the Entrepreneurship Club.

“There’s a blurring of the distinctions between business and social entrepreneurship,” Shaw told the group. “That’s a great thing in the world.”

He gave an overview of his involvement with a number of companies, beginning with the veterinary diagnostics firm IDEXX Laboratories, of which he served as CEO for nearly 20 years. He also spoke about his work in putting together the firm Organovo, which uses 3-D bioprinting technology to produce leather and even food from living cells harvested from animals.

“We can make leather without killing a cow,” he said. “We can print food.”

He’s also become involved in show business. The film Albert Nobbs, starring Close was another of his entrepreneurial ventures. His wife received an Oscar nomination for her performance.

“Between the two of us,” he deadpanned, “ my wife and I have six Academy Award nominations.“

He also spoke in detail about his involvement in agents for change in the not-for-profit world, including a biomedical research facility in Maine and ocean conservation groups.  He was generous with his time following his presentation, fielding questions and dispensing advice. He returned often to the theme of “good” as the enemy of “great” in business as well as in social concern.

“It’s an all-in experience,” he said. “‘Good’ just doesn’t cut it.”

Saturday’s main event on campus was A Conversation with Glenn Close during the second annual Arts & Entertainment Festival.  During the Q&A forum, Close shared lesson’s she’s learned as an actor, director and producer with festival attendees. She also spent a portion of the morning working with a small group of students from film & media studies in Swem Library’s Special Collections.  The workshop featured a filmed interview with Close discussing her time at W&M, her theatre work, transition into film and recent activism in the mental health field.  The students hope to produce a short documentary of the interview.

Joe McClain and Erin Zagursky contributed to this story.  – Ed.