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DePaul's Theatre School dean stepping down end of academic year

John Culbert
(DePaul University/Anna Ables)
​​After 33 years at DePaul University, John Culbert announced yesterday, Nov. 17, he will step down as dean for The Theatre School at the end of this academic year. Culbert has served as dean for 21 years. He joined DePaul in 1988 as an assistant professor and head of the lighting design program.

“The Theatre School will always be a significant part of my life.  It has been my academic, intellectual and artistic home," Culbert said in a message he shared with Theatre School faculty, staff, students and alumni. “I have been privileged to work with the students, staff, faculty, alumni, and supporters over those years.  I am fiercely and deeply proud of what we have accomplished through our work together."

During his tenure as dean, Culbert fulfilled an important objective for The Theatre School – new facilities. In Sept. 2013, DePaul's Theatre School moved into its current location at the corner of Fullerton and Racine on the Lincoln Park Campus. Designed by the internationally renowned architect, César Pelli, and his firm Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, the school houses two state-of-the-art theatre spaces, as well as costume, makeup, prop and scene shops, rehearsal studios, lighting laboratories and movement studios. In addition to being the Midwest's oldest theatre conservatory, DePaul's Theatre School is recognized as one of the top acting programs in the nation.

“I'm incredibly grateful to have had the privilege of serving alongside John for many years at DePaul," says Interim Provost Salma Ghanem. “His leadership, artistic talent and unwavering commitment to our Vincentian mission have provided undeniable inspiration to so many of us in the DePaul community. I will miss his wise counsel and wish him well in this next chapter of his life."

An award-winning designer of scenery and lighting, Culbert's real-world experience has benefited countless students throughout his distinguished academic career. His portfolio in Chicago includes Buckingham Fountain, Garfield Conservatory, Field Museum of Natural History and the Chicago Park District. His lighting and scenery work includes productions at the Goodman Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Chicago Opera Theatre and the Court Theatre. He has received multiple Joseph Jefferson nominations and a Jeff Award for “The Triumph of Love" at Court Theatre.

In his message to the Theatre School community, Culbert explained the thought process behind his decision to step out of the role as dean, which he emphasized was not easy.

“I believe the school has a unique opportunity to redefine itself in new and exciting ways," he said. “Ultimately, a new leader will benefit the school with a longer timeframe to guide the school through a transformation.  I also know it is time for me to create space for new adventures. So, my decision to step down is the right one for both myself and the school."

Culbert also reflected on what he would miss most, with an eye toward playing his next part at DePaul – an audience member.

“I know now the things I will miss most—the energy and passion one feels when entering our doors; the creativity evident in every part of the school; and, most of all, the opportunity to work with students and colleagues who are caring, passionate, demanding, and ever in pursuit of the next step forward," Culbert said. “I remain as committed as ever to the school and my role as dean and, starting in July, engaging with the school as an audience member and enthusiastic supporter."

The university will share information about the search for DePaul's next Theatre School dean when it is available.