In Memoriam: Lou Catron

Lou CatronProfessor Emeritus Louis E. Catron died October 30, 2010 after a long illness. He was noted for his direction of popular William & Mary Theatre musicals, classical plays, modern dramas and comedies.

His colleague Richard Palmer recalled, “In more than 30 years of directing, Lou Catron provided many wonderful experiences for Williams­burg audiences. His musicals usually sold out the Phi Beta Kappa theater, but he also did a wide range of dramas.  He was a special teacher who continued to nurture former students years after they left William and Mary. Important writers in film and television continued to rely on his critiques and support.”

A number of Prof. Catron’s students excelled as actors, directors, screenplay writers and authors. Perhaps best known are actress Glenn Close and novelist-screenwriter Karen Hall of “M*A*S*H” and “Hill Street Blues.” His playwriting graduates went on to write more than 40 books, several dedicated to him.

Louis Catron was born in Springfield, Ill., in 1932 and was educated at Millikin University and Southern Illinois University. During the Korean War, he served in the Navy. Prior to teaching, he held a variety of jobs. He enjoyed success as an actor, but felt he belonged in teaching theater.  

He joined William & Mary in 1966. In 1988 the Virginia Council of Higher Education awarded him the ­Outstanding Faculty Award, an annual honor given 12 professors. In 1972 and 1975 he was named an “Outstanding Educator of America.”  His production of “Agnes of God” toured several cities in Virginia. Many of his musical productions for the W&M Theatre set attendance records. His last play for the theater was “Kiss Me Kate,” in 2001.

Among his awards. he was most proud of being elected to the William & Mary chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.  Prof. Catron joined others in urging Williamsburg City Council to establish an Arts Commission to support local arts, and for six years he served as chairman. He campaigned for construction of a new Williamsburg Library, the addition of the performing arts wing, and the Muscarelle Museum of Art.

He wrote more than a dozen books for the theater, most dealing with play­writing and directing. Several became college staples.  One of his plays enjoyed thousands of runs in the United States and Canada, and several had off-Broadway production. 

Known for his distinguished voice, he was delighted when the Williamsburg Symphonia invited him to narrate Beethoven’s “Egmont Symphony” at the Kimball Theatre.

Jerry Bledsoe, another colleague in Theatre and Speech, said, “I had a great deal of faith in Lou’s ability to realize a production well. He knew how to make it appeal to the audience. He knew how to make it go. He was a splendid playwriting teacher. He knew what made a story work and he was good at passing it on to his students, and many have made careers of it.”

Prof. Catron was also an accomplished sailor who raced in the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean.  After retirement in 2002, he taught popular courses for the Christopher Wren Association and was a volunteer for Meals on Wheels and Faith in Action.

He is survived by his son, Markwood Lincoln Catron. Other survivors include two brothers and one sister: John Mark Catron of St. Paul, Minn., Bayard L. Catron of Springfield, Ill., and Jennifer Lee Catron of Madrid, Spain.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to the Louis E. Catron Scholarship Fund for Artistic Development, c/o Office of Develop­ment, College of William & Mary, PO Box 1693, Williamsburg VA 23187. The fund will support W&M students who focus on studio art, creative writing, applied music, or theater arts.