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Dr. Tonea Stewart to Retire from Alabama State University
Posted By: Robert Walker on May 23, 2019

For nearly a decade, Dr. Tommie Tonea Stewart has served as dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at a tenured professor at Alabama State University (ASU). In her previous capacity, she served as chair of ASU’s Theatre Arts Department for 20 years.

On June 1, 2019, Dr. Stewart will officially retire from ASU, having a legacy of over 48 years of a career in higher education dedicated to the enlightenment, empowerment and enrichment of young people who have graduated with an education and a vision for quality of life both professionally and personally.

A Greenwood, Miss. native, Dr. Stewart received her B.S. Degree in Speech and Theatre from Jackson State University and her M.A. in Theatre Arts from the University of California at Santa Barbara. In 1989, she completed her Ph.D. in Theatre Arts from Florida State University, becoming the first Theatre McKnight Doctoral Fellow and the first African-American female to receive a doctorate from the FSU School of Theatre Arts.

An accomplished professional actress with many film and television roles to her credit, Dr. Stewart is perhaps best known for her roles in the film “A Time to Kill,” “Mississippi Damned,” and on the long running television series “In the Heat of the Night.” Recently, she was featured in the hit film, ‘Girls Trip’ and in the Netflix original movie ‘Come Sunday’.

As dean, Dr. Stewart was responsible for the Visual Arts, Theater and Music departments. Her legacy began as chair of the Theatre Arts program, which became one of the most recognizable programs in the country for its innovative programs, and where a large number of graduates, approximately 75% from the theater department, go on to receive full scholarships. Thus they attended major graduate universities such as Brown, Brandies, Rutgers, Yale, UCLA, University of Louisville, Washington State, and LSU, to name a few.

Two of Dr. Stewart’s crowning achievements while at ASU has been with her summer arts youth camps, held every summer for 28 years, where youth come from all over the country to participate in intensive arts, music and dance training from Dr. Stewart, ASU staff, along with invited professional guest artists:

And, Dr. Stewart’s Theater of Being Summit, inaugurated in 2018 that recognizes the ancestry of the arts in the African American community and the artistry of Stewart’s mentors, the late Bea Richards and Frank Silvera:

"Dr. Stewart is irreplaceable. I have had the privilege of knowing and working with her for nearly 30 years and watched as she impacted many lives. Dr. Stewart will be missed, but I am excited for her as she begins this next chapter of her life." – Lois Jackson, Administrative Secretary ~ ASU College of Visual and Performing Arts

There will be a retirement dinner honoring Dr. Stewart in May, with a planned celebration for her in the fall of 2019 (details forthcoming).

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