“As I go travelling down life’s highway whatever course my fortune’s may foretell I shall not go alone on my way for thou shall always be with me…”
Nearly two years ago, I was fortunate enough to be one of several Rollins students to sing these words on the Annie Russell stage. The show was Grease, directed by beloved Rollins professor and accomplished actor Kevin Gray. Kevin—who always encouraged his students to sing their feelings—brought a passion to the stage that was only matched by his passion in the classroom.
In the week following his passing, it is this continued love and the words he taught his students to sing that have brought comfort to many mourning hearts on campus. Kevin was known to many across the country as a tour de force of the American stage. Starring in some of the largest productions in the biggest Broadway houses, Kevin was known for breathing life into favorite shows such as The Lion King, Misgon, The King and I, and, of course, The Phantom of the Opera, where he met his wife and fellow performer, Dodie Pettit. Both Kevin and Dodie—as they requested to be called—are much-loved members of the Rollins family.
The work they did in their short time at Rollins has extended far beyond the perimeters of any stage, into the hearts and souls of students, faculty, and friends alike. When most people remember Kevin Gray, they will remember his resume; both impressive
and important, it was the work he so fully he met with absolute devotion. But, I also hope that there are those who will look to his students; his colleagues; his friends; his family. These were his greatest achievements. Kevin is kind. Kevin is joyful. Kevin is passionate. Kevin is an incredible listener. Kevin takes amazing risks. I write “is” not to diminish the impact of his passing, but to honor the reality of his presence.
Next time you see a music student encouraging a friend, know that while you see their kindness, you also see Kevin. When you see a theatre professor sitting in the rose garden listening to a student, know that while you see their compassion, you also see Kevin. When you see a student take a deep breath and boldly step onto stage, know that while you see their courage, then, in that moment, you also see Kevin. The impact he has made on Rollins can be seen in each and every person he came in contact with. His influence is not lost.
In his parting letter to the theatre department, Kevin wrote, “I am grateful to have had the privilege of standing beside you, and I have learned so much from all of you. I cannot thank you enough for the patience, support, humor, love and talent you’ve shared.” Truly, it was we who are privileged. We who have learned. We who are grateful.
for Kevin Gray will be held at the Annie Russell Theatre on March 16 at 11 a.m. The non-denominational event will honor his contributions to the college during his tenure as well as his life and accomplishments.