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Campus grieves over Stockley loss

By Carol Franch

Travis L. Stockley, assistant professor in the Department of Music and coordinator of the university’s Musical Theatre degree program, died  Aug. 24 in a car accident.

Word spread quickly among students who then gathered in Moore Hall to grieve together. A counselor was available for faculty, staff and students.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Diane O. Jones said students at the gathering have indicated that they want a memorial.
The memorial service is scheduled for Sept. 6 at 4:30 p.m. in the Givens Performing Arts Center. The Pembroke Singers will perform at the service and Joshua Altman, pictured at right with Stockley, will sing "Where is Love" from the musical "Oliver" in tribute to him.

Joshua Altman, left, son of Director of Bands Dr. Timothy Altman, is congratulated by the late musical theatre professor Travis Stockley, right, at the conclusion of the recent production of “The Music Man.”  Photo By Johanna Altman
Joshua Altman, left, son of Director of Bands Dr. Timothy Altman, is congratulated by the late musical theatre professor Travis Stockley, right, at the conclusion of the recent production of “The Music Man.”
“I’m gonna make sure that he is remembered for his accomplishments,” said student Holly Hensley at the Moore Hall gathering. 
“He wasn’t just another professor at UNCP. His career was his life and he loved it here.”

“It’s because of him that I am at this school. He was an amazing person,” Hensley said.

“I’m real sad because he had so much knowledge; he was a genius,” student  Ashley Davis said.

“He was one of a kind; he was a master of his craft. He wasn’t just your teacher , but he was also a good friend,” student and member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity PJ Gadja said. Stockley had been a member of the same fraternity.

Chancellor Allen C. Meadors told The Pine Needle it’s a “terrible loss to the University community. We’ll all miss him.”

Dr. Timothy Altman, assistant professor and Director of Bands said, “My two boys, Joshua and Noah, were in several productions with Travis.”

 He continued, “This has allowed me to watch him work on many occasions. I have not seen anyone have such an amazing ability to make good use of the space of any size stage (from the GPAC stage, to Moore Hall auditorium, to the black box theatre).

“His blocking (placement/movement of actors) always looked great! He would always take time to put his hand on the boys shoulder and look them in the eye when he spoke to them.

“He always gave them suggestions for improvement, but also said how impressed he was of them,” he added.
“My youngest son, Noah asked me, ‘Can we have rehearsal with him everyday?’ That alone speaks volumes of Travis ability to work with people,” Altman said.

“Travis always helped me get into character,” said Joshua Altman. “He would paint a picture with words that helped me get the right attitude/perspective for a specific line or a scene. I can't imagine anyone helping me any better,” he said.

Dr. Charles F. Harrington, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs said, “The UNCP academic community grieves with the family and friends of Travis Stockley.

“Mr. Stockley was a dedicated member of the faculty who gave himself completely and selflessly to the education of his students. His cheerful demeanor, commitment and energy will be dearly missed by all who knew him,” Dr. Harrington said.

Students gathered the day after  Stockley’s death outside his officeto leave flowers and notes in tribute.
Dozens of people showed up in Moore Hall to plan for his memorial service.

Dr. Janita K. Byars, music department chair, said, "What I would say about Mr. Stockley really isn't that different from what most other people would say, and that actually describes him.

He was consistently who he was- whether to a colleague or a student, also he was totally devoted to this campus, this musical theatre program and these students. We were and are his family, and he was reciprocally, part of ours.

“That spontaneous gathering was a tribute to his life and his work,” Byars said.

Kay Oxendine, administative assistant to the SGA and project director of “Strike at the Wind”, remembers Stockley helping with the community’s production of “Strike at the Wind.” He choreographed the dance and move steps for the production she says, “It helped really build up the confidence level in our participants.

Travis was an expert of his craft, and was an incredible teacher. He was able to bring ideas, better thoughts and brighter ideas to all of us.  He will be sorely missed.”

Dr. Altman said, “Travis’ knowledge of musical theatre was almost scary.

“I would bring up something about a favorite musical of mine and he would recount the original Broadway cast, mention his favorite version, and he usually knew someone involved in its production.

“His connections to musical theatre around the country were astonishing.

“I would always learn something from our conversations.

“My family and I will miss him dearly.  He helped my boys develop the confidence and poise that they use in so many other ways everyday,” he added.

Stockley  came to UNCP from East Carolina University (ECU) in 2002 to start a program in musical theatre.
UNCP now is the only college in North Carolina offering the Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre.

Stockley won the Outer Critics Award for the best Off-Broadway musical production and the Joseph Jefferson Award for best director of a musical. He  directed over 100 productions.

According to his faculty webpage, in Chicago he won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Musical Director for “Sweeney Todd”, a performance that predated the eventual New York City production.

He received 11 additional Jeff nominations and many Best Production Awards while in Chicago.

As producer, he entered three shorts in the Sundance Festival and was a finalist in the Sundance Theatre Lab.

Together with Stephen Cole and Matthew Ward, Stockley collaborated on a new musical, after the Fair (an adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel), for which he won an Outer Critics Circle nomination for Outstanding Off-Broadway Music Production in 1999.

He directed numerous Equity productions (including “The Music Man”, “Phantom of the Opera”, “Candide”, “West Side Story”, “Grease”, among numerous others) and regional Equity productions (“My Fair Lady”, “Gypsy”, “Mame”, “Guys and Dolls”, “Singin' in the Rain”, “The Fantasticks”, and many others.)

Stockley earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Illinois Wesleyan and his Master of Fine Arts from Northwestern University.

At the beginning of this semester’s classes, a student remembers Stockley started, “My name is Travis Stockley. I’m the director of the theatre program. Hold your applause.”
Terri Rorke, Kelly Griffith and Jason Bullock contributed to this story.

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The University of North Carolina at Pembroke The print edition of The Pine Needle
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Updated: Tuesday, September 5, 2006
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