Maxwell's Susan Wadley honored by Open Hand Theater

Susan Wadley, PhD, Ford-Maxwell Professor of South Asian Studies, Syracuse University, was honored by Open Hand Theater at a grand reopening event on September 28. Wadley has served on the board of Open Hand Theater for over 20 years and has been instrumental in supporting the theater. Wadley was presented with flowers and a certificate of gratitude that read, “We are strong today because of your faith in us, your enthusiasm and your generosity.”

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Pictured, form left: Peter Fekete, artistic director, Open Hand Theater; Professor Wadley;  Rick Olanoff, Wadley’s spouse; Andrea Wandersee, managing director, Open Hand Theater; and Seth Tucker, president, board of directors, Open Hand Theater.

Speech from the presentation of Dr. Wadley’s award:

Our Honoree

Growing up in the 1950s in Chicago and Peoria, Illinois, Sue’s connection to theater was limited.  However, she remembers that her mother, Ellen — who loved all things craft — had Sue and her brother making string puppets with carved wooden heads. Sewing projects were big and Sue even made matching dresses for her two daughters’ first Christmas together — despite being full-time faculty at Syracuse University. Today Sue meets her sewing and creative artistic needs through quilting.

Sue completed a BA in psychology at Carlton College and lucked into a fully paid junior year in India — a trip that transformed her life. She is now Ford Maxwell Professor of South Asia at Syracuse University where she is a professor in the anthropology department and has served as associate dean of Arts and Sciences and director of the South Asia Center. For some years, the South Asia Center was an active participant in Open Hand Theater activities, including collaborating on classroom events. Sue also instituted the still active Open Hand Theater course for honors students who work with our city schools.

Sue’s connection to Open Hand Theater came through her daughter, Shona Derr, who was an active member throughout high school and into her early 20s. In close to 20 years as a board member, Sue has been president and secretary and volunteered in many ways, including staffing the ticket booth and preparing foods for receptions. 

In recent years, Sue has provided continuity to Open Hand Theater’s Board of Directors, and has shown a great deal of confidence and support for the new team. Thanks in part to Sue’s commitment, we are here together, celebrating today. She is delighted to see this transformation of Open Hand and its re-invention